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Author Topic: Age of Madness  (Read 8254 times)
Spawn of Ungoliant
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« on: October 25, 2010, 11:23:57 PM »

AGE OF MADNESS

Were I (who to my cost already am
One of those strange, prodigious creatures, man)
A spirit free to choose, for my own share,
What case of flesh and blood I pleased to wear,
I'd be a dog, a monkey, or a bear,
Or anything but that vain animal
Who is so proud of being rational.
The senses are too gross, and he'll contrive
A sixth, to contradict the other five,
And before certain instinct, will prefer
Reason, which fifty times for one does err;
Reason, an ignis fatuus in the mind,
Which, leaving light of nature, sense, behind,
Pathless and dangerous wandering ways it takes
Through error's fenny bogs and thorny brakes;
Whilst the misguided follower climbs with pain
Mountains of whimseys, heaped in his own brain;
Stumbling from thought to thought, falls headlong down
Into doubt's boundless sea, where, like to drown,
Books bear him up a while, and make him try
To swim with bladders of philosophy;
In hopes still to o'ertake th' escaping light,-
The vapor dances in his dazzling sight
Till, spent, it leaves him to eternal night.

- John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, "A Satyre Against Mankind"


Cognito Ergo Fhtagn

It is 1700 in the year of Our Lord.  Descartes has claimed that the human body is merely a machine, that the pineal gland is the seat of the soul; Kepler has charted the courses of the celestial spheres; Newton has conquered the mysteries of motion with his Principia; Milton has justified the ways of God to Man.  The witch craze is dwindling as science and empiricism have replaced mysticism and folklore.  We have unravelled the secrets of the cosmos, tamed savage continents, exposed the beliefs of past centuries as a tissue of ignorance and superstition.  Is there nothing that will not yield to the dint of our intellect?

Believing that our Rationality will be sufficient to comprehend the deepest secrets of the universe we grasp greedily for fresh knowledge.  Even while we denigrate the follies of the past and relegate the Creator to the position of divine clock-winder we eagerly pay obeisance to the squealing infant idol of Progress.  What will be the cost of this new covenant?  What sacrifice will this thirsty, neonate deity demand?

We think that we stride forward into a glorious future with both eyes open, alert and aware.  But in truth we are like children stumbling in the dark, in some twisted game of blind man's bluff.  As we grope sightlessly towards we know not what, forces yet far beyond our callow, untried ken begin to stir.  To attract Their attention invites a peril more terrible than any can imagine.

We claim to live in an Age of Reason, but Bedlam overflows with lunatics, and the rich pay their penny to gawk.  One day soon our feeble delusions will falter and dissolve; we shall see Beyond the Veil and watch in horror as our world collapses around us, and the Invisible World becomes hideously tangible.  We shall peer into the cyclopean eye of Truth and shiver as it gazes awfully back.

The Age of Reason is a lie.

This is the Age of Madness.



Out of Character

Inspiration: Sleepy Hollow, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Solomon Kane, the Cthulhu Mythos, Amnesia: Dark Descent, Dracula, The Crucible.

While my Cadaverous Earth game is on hiatus, I'm planning on running a number of sporadic one-shots and/or short, episodic games.  That'll probably include some more Tempter, but I also want to run a horror game of some kind where the players aren't especially powerful.  While the 'setting' here is pretty much just 18th century Europe (and maybe other continents) with no overt changes of my own - save for the presence of betentacled monstrosities from Beyond and the like - I think this might be a fun sort of mini-campaign; if players survived one adventure they could go on to others episodically.  It's rather close to what Call of Cthulhu: The Enlightenment might look like, which is wholly intentional.

More to come, including Characters, Secret Orders, Sorcery, and more!

EDIT: Should I advance the time-scale to the late eighteenth century?  That way I could get the French Revolution, William Blake, and the porphyria-infected George IV, though I lose out somewhat on the Salem Witch-Trial/Solomon Kane vibe, plus technically the Age of Reason would be over...

ORGANIZATIONS


The Society of the Black Rose

Formed initially in the dim obscurity of the fourteenth century by rogue Templars fleeing the wrath of Phillip the Fair, the Society of the Black Rose is a secret order dedicated to the comprehension (and in some instances, the opposition of) of occult forces.  With ties to the Rosicrucian brotherhood and to Freemasonry, the Society began as an explicitly religious organization but has gradually modernized and secularized; though predominantly Christian it also includes deists and atheists, and even a handful of Jewish, Muslim, and pagan members.

The Society is not a paternalistic or centralized order: there is no main headquarters, no dictatorial Grand Master.  Rather, Society cells (sometimes called 'Petals') are scattered across Europe and the New World and operate independently, though they recognize members of other chapters and offer them assistance, equipment, shelter, and the like.  The Society is a secret one, however, and chapterhouses (called Rosariæ, or Gardens) are frequently disguised or located underground; such structures usually contain a storehouse of information on esoteric matters, as well as whatever equipment, relics, or other objects of interest the Petal has acquired to further their efforts.  Some Petals prefer to meet in pre-determined locations rather than maintaining a Rosarium.

The Black Rose was chosen as a symbol because of its dual associations with science (black roses are not found in nature) and with mysticism.

The Innermost Circle

Also known as the Cocytans, the exclusive club known as the Innermost Circle is a British libertine organization devoted purely to extreme hedonism and political individualism.  Unlike most gentlemen's clubs in London and elsewhere the Innermost Circle meets in accordance to a curious lunar schedule in a secret, subterranean location in a network of cavernous chalk tunnels excavated sometime in the remote past, probably by ancient Celts.  The primary rites of the Circle take the form of parodic Satanic ceremonies, such as black masses - though the club's members are almost exclusively atheistic in character, and intend such rituals in jest.  While in the caverns Cocytans wear ornate masks in the style of Venice and refer to themselves as devils.  After their meetings - which also include political and philosophical discussions and debates - the club members doff their costumes are ascend to the streets to carouse at nearby taverns, brothels, and gambling dens.

Though most of the Innermost Circle scorn what they see as superstitious beliefs in witchcraft and the like, a few Cocytans are true dabblers in the occult.  One of John Dee's descendents and the notorious Lord George Constantine are both counted amongst the club's members, and William Fitzroy (widely believed to be the bastard son of King Charles II) is a member of the Society of the Black Rose.

CHARACTERS


The Seer



Rescued by members of the Society of the Black Rose from the torch of Inquisitor Salvatore Schirru, Sophia Leroux is a sensitive clairvoyant possessing acute extra-sensory perceptive abilities, predominantly the ability to retrocognitively detect and vicariously experience the residues of strong emotions such as joy, hatred, terror, or despair.  When a residual emotion is particularly powerful she occasionally sees and hears ghost-like echoes of past events; during such episodes she has, however, been known to fall into a state of unconsciousness.  While she cannot 'read minds,' detect lies, see 'auras,' or otherwise decipher the low-level emotional secretions of those around her she does possess superior empathetic abilities and does share in the emotions of those around her if they are strong enough.  Sometimes her visions manifest synaesthetically - for example, she has perceived the memory of pain as a foul smell, the memory of fear as an acrid taste, and the memory of ecstasy as glorious music.  In addition to these abilities Sophia is unusually susceptible to the molestations of extra-corporeal entities, whose presences she can usually discern.

A woman of middle class birth and better than average education, Sophia is, in addition to being a clairvoyant, a skilled poetess and an avid reader of French romances.  Though the Society of the Black Rose traditionally is open only to men, Sophia was inducted as an honorary member in June of 1698.  Following the loss of her faith as a direct result of her torture and near execution at the hands of the Roman Inquisition, she has begun to explore the occult library of her Society Petal and has become reasonably well-versed in eldritch theory, though she possesses no practical cabalistic abilities.

Physically Sophia has dark, Mediterranean features common to the inhabitants of southern France.  Her body is badly scarred from her time in the clutches of the Inquisition.

Skills and Abilities: Clairvoyance (Retrocognitive Empathy), Domestic Skills (Sewing, Cooking, etc), Eldritch Lore, Music (Piano).

Languages: French (Fluent), English (Adequate), Italian (Poor).

Religion: Catholic (lapsed).

Possessions: Clothing, Folding Fan, Stiletto, Atramène Vol. IV, Petit Albert, Quill & Ink, Parchment, Diary, Parasol, Black Rose Pendant.

The Berzerker



Raised by a tribe of anthropophagic, inhuman creatures in the Fells of Scandinavia, the savage that Edwin Lazarus christened 'Trollson' is a hulking tower of a man notable for his ability to enter a trance-like state of frenzy similar in the manner of the old Norse berzerkers.  His parents were devoured by the very tribe of pre-human hominids that took him in for reasons unknown, a breed of hideous, malformed beings long identified as 'thurs' or 'jötunn' in local myths.  Lazarus, having tracked a karcist to the mountains of Sweden, stumbled upon both Trollson and the tribe of horrors who nurtured him; the warlock he hunted, a man named Xavier Oiarzabal, had used his sorcerous powers to enslave the creatures, which he was using for sacrifices in an effort to summon his master, a creature he believed to be a daemonic godling called Zuggoi-Hrylak.  Lazarus arrived too late to prevent the invocation of the entity, which consumed the massed worshippers Xavier had gathered; it was Trollson himself, provoked to a state of primal rage at the sight of his foster-family's destruction, who slew the diabolist, thus severing Zuggoi-Hyrlak's link to the physical universe and banishing him back to the void.

Since become a member of the Society of the Black Rose, Trollson has accustomed himself to life amongst his own kind only with difficulty, obtaining a meager smattering of English and halfheartedly acclimating to civilized customs.  Though Edwin Lazarus insisted on his conversion to Christianity, the imposing Trollson still retains many of his pagan beliefs.  He never lets his weapon - a stone axe inscribed with primitive runes - leave his side.  Naturally strong and resilient, Trollson's might and tenacity become preternaturally increased while in his berserk state (which he only enters when threatened or angry).

Skills and Abilities: Axemanship, Archery, Berzerker Rage, Hunting, Mountaineering, Tracking.

Languages: Troll, English (Poor).

Religion: Pagan/Protestant.

Possessions: Clothing, Stone Axe, Short Bow, 50 Arrows (Flint), Black Rose Pendant.

The Puritan



A grim and close-mouthed figure, the shadowy warrior known as Edwin Lazarus has traveled much of the known world on an unending quest to rid the world of otherworldly contamination.  Uncompromising and ruthless in the extreme, Lazarus' zeal and hatred of all things occult strains his relations with other members of the Society of the Black Rose; he considers Ambrose Morgan a dangerous madman dabbling with forces beyond his control, and is deeply distrustful of Sophia Leroux, believing the origins of her unique abilities to be diabolical.  His closest associate in the group is the strange, savage man called Trollson - the only individual in the Petal more dour and tightlipped than himself.

Almost nothing is known of Lazarus' origins, but rumours persist of a dark sin in the man's youth for which the wanderer seeks redemption.  Lazarus is an incredibly capable warrior, wielding a plain rapier and dagger simultaneously in melee combat.  He is also an accomplished pistolier, possessing a pair of ornate wheellock pistols; some claim that the pistols were forged in part using the nails of the True Cross, but like most stories involving the Holy Nails this one is almost certainly apocryphal.  Lazarus himself is doggedly silent on the subject.

Accustomed to solitude, Lazarus is only a recent recruit of the Society.  For many years he traveled the known world on his own, ranging from the foetid jungles of the New World to the brooding forests of Eastern Europe to the exotic cities of the distant Orient.  He was convinced to join the Society of the Black Rose after receiving the aid of several Society members in exposing a dark cult formed by a former neophyte of Étienne Guibourg (himself infamous for conducting Black Masses during L'affaire des poisons); suitably impressed with the arcane knowledge, expertise, and general capability of the secret order he was persuaded that operating as a group would ultimately be more effective than working alone.  He remains deeply suspicious of many Society activities, however.

Skills and Abilities: Folklore, Equestrianism, Marksmanship, Outdoorsmanship, Swordsmanship, Theology (Protestant).

Languages: English (Fluent), German (Adequate), Dutch (Adequate), French (Poor), Spanish (Poor).

Religion: Protestant.

Possessions: Clothing, 2 Wheellock Pistols, 50 Bullets & Shot, Rapier, Dagger, Torch, Flint & Steel, King James Bible, Black Rose Pendant.

Out of Character

Thinly veiled Solomon Kane action-hero type.  A clip from the recent movie adaptation for those unfamiliar with the character (the original Robert E. Howard stories are all on wikisource as well, and are a great read!).

The Professor



A staunch empiricist and deist, Doctor of Medicine Ambrose Morgan was trained as an anatomist and surgeon, studying at Merton College in Oxford.  A sceptic and rationalist, he became interested in the otherworldly only after witnessing the revival of the dead in the morgue of St. Bartholomew's Hospital - the result of the Æther-storm of 1684.  After destroying the revenant of a former patient Ambrose became intensely interested in all things arcane, seeking out mystics and karcists across Britain and Europe.  His researches eventually led him to the Society of the Black Rose, and he was inducted as a member in 1695 on the recommendation of his colleague and fellow Society member, the famous Sir Isaac Newton, whose significant contributions to the study of the occult need not be repeated here.

Since his occult obsessions began Ambrose has progressed by leaps and bounds and is now a capable sorcerer, though having observed the deleterious effects of magic on other practitioners he uses his abilities only with extreme caution, preferably in controlled laboratory conditions.  He has refused to abandon his essentially reason-based worldview, rather insisting that apparent conflicts between the laws of nature and the laws of sorcery can be reconciled with time and study, and that all things obey the dictates of the Grand Architect.

Ambrose Morgan is also a skilled chemist and alchemist, fully proficient in the concoction of a number of mundane and eldritch elixirs and serums (though he has neither transmuted lead to gold nor created a Philosopher's Stone).  He remains a practicing physician and anatomist and a member of the Royal College of Physicians, and has been consulted by the likes of the alienist Wemyss Monro, notable for his pioneering works on insanity, and John Radcliffe, royal physician to William and Mary.  Originally of mixed Scottish and Welsh ancestry he learned a form of Gaelic from his grandmother, who used to recite strange tales of the faerie to him when he was a young child.

Skills and Abilities: Alchemy, Eldritch Lore, Medical Knowledge, Sorcery (Goetia), Surgery.

Languages: English (Fluent), Latin (Fluent), Gaelic (Adequate), Ancient Greek (Adequate), Hebrew (Poor), French (Poor).

Religion: Deist/Freethinker.

Possessions: Clothing, Surgical Tools, 6 Glass Phials, Smallsword, De l'Infinito Universo et Mondi, the Lemegeton, the Munich Manual, Quill & Ink, Parchment, Journal, Black Rose Pendant.

Out of Character

Think Rupert Giles from Buffy, or Ichabod Crane from Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow.

The Priest



Having been excommunicated for heresy, Father Erasmus Borgia was formerly an Inquisitor of the Roman Inquisition.  Stationed principally in Avignon, he gradually became jaded with the Inquisition's gruesome methods and intolerance.  This culminated in his assistance with the rescue of Sophia Leroux, earning him the wrath of fellow Inquisitor Salvatore Schirru, who swore an oath of vengeance against Erasmus following his escape from France.  Subsequent to his excommunication Father Erasmus became a member of the Society of the Black Rose, and though no longer an official member of the clergy he still considers himself a firm Catholic.

Though an old man, Father Erasmus is still a force to be reckoned with.  Devout of faith and quick to anger, his former Inquisitorial zeal is greatly tempered by compassion and pity for those preyed upon by otherworldly forces.  In times of desperate need, however, Erasmus can set aside his penchant for mercy and once again become an interrogator of the most demanding variety; he still carries a selection of brands and other macabre instruments with which to accomplish this most dire of necessities.  In addition to his enormous theological knowledge and his expertise in the infliction of pain Erasmus is a trained exorcist.

A cantankerous and curmudgeonly man, Erasmus has been known to bicker with Ambrose Morgan (who he sees as little better than a warlock) and with Edwin Lazarus, with whom he has bitter theological debates.  However, he regards Sophia Leroux almost as an adopted daughter and has even pressed the notoriously close-mouthed Trollson into conversation.  Though prone to complaint when it comes to poor weather, food, or lodging, Erasmus possesses a wicked sense of humour and an inexhaustible trove of decidedly un-clerical jokes, traits which earned him the distrust of fellow clergymen well before his excommunication.

Skills and Abilities: Sorcery (Exorcism), Theology (Catholic), Torture & Interrogation.

Languages: Latin (Fluent), Italian (Fluent), Ancient Greek (Adequate), Hebrew (Adequate), English (Adequate), French (Poor).

Religion: Catholic (excommunicated).

Possessions: Clothing, Malleus Maleficarum, Latin Vulgate Bible, Crucifix, Rosary, Holy Water, Torture Implements (Thumbscrews, Brands, Knives, Cord, etc), Staff.

Out of Character

I'm thinking sort of a grumpier version of William of Baskerville from The Name of the Rose.

The Rake



A member of the libertine club known as the Innermost Circle and the still-inchoate Freemasons as well as the Society of the Black Rose, the politically well-connected William Palmer (sometimes styled William Fitzroy) is nominally the son of the Catholic nobleman Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine and Baron Limerick, and his wife, the notorious ex-courtesan Barbara Villiers, though the former King of England, Scotland, and Ireland - Charles II - is probably his true father.  Despite his very likely illegitimacy, William is a prominent figure at court and the holder of several titles, including the Earldom of Lichfield.  He is also an infamous rake and carouser, an avowed atheist (despite being christened both as a Catholic and and an Anglican by Roger Palmer and the King, respectively), and something of an eccentric, spending hours in solitude in his enormous, rambling house in Lichfield.  William also has a twin sister, Charlotte Fitzroy, Viscountess Quarendon.

Intensely fascinated by all things occult, William was inducted into the Society of the Black Rose at the behest of his half-brother Charles Lennox, another of Charles II's bastard children (who happens to be the Worshipful Master of the Chichester Masonic Lodge).  Rumour holds that the nobleman - now in his thirties - is searching for an alchemical panacea in order to cure a mysterious illness contracted during the course of his debaucheries.  Only Ambrose Morgan - William's closest confidante in the Petal of the Society - knows the secret of his illness, though speculation runs rampant; it is widely believed that the sickness, whatever it is, accounts for William's long periods of solitude.

William Palmer is an accomplished duellist, having slain no fewer than three men in duels with either sword or pistol and wounded five more.  Hot-tempered, irascible, and prone to brooding, the tempestuously moody young man is also capable of great wit and charm, and his good looks are legendary.

Skills and Abilities: Equestrianism, Marksmanship, Mysterious Illness, Political Connections, Swordsmanship, Wealth, Wit.

Languages: English (Fluent), Italian (Adequate), French (Adequate), Latin (Poor).

Religion: Atheist.

Possessions: Clothing, Flintlock Duelling Pistol, 25 Bullets & Shot, Rapier, Signet Ring, Medicine (for illness), Black Rose Pendant.

Out of Character

Anyone who chooses to play William gets to decide on the exact nature of his mysterious illness, but should keep it a secret from the other players, unless one of them is playing Ambrose Morgan.  Alternatively they could leave the decision up to the GM.

Though William is a fictional character he closely resembles several figures from history - Charles II had eleven acknowledged natural (i.e. illegitimate) children, and was very fond of giving them titles, usually by creating new peerages.

The Enigma



Found wandering naked and aimless across the moors of Northern England in December of 1699 by William Palmer on his way back to his home in Lichfield, the mysterious individual whom Palmer dubbed John Lear has no memory prior to his discovery.  The amnesiac man is of indeterminate age (though probably in his late thirties) and nationality (though he is of European race) but can speak at least English quite fluently; it is possible that he knows other tongues as well, but is simply unaware of his capabilities.  Sometimes in his sleep he cries out in a strange tongue, in a voice quite unlike his own.  He rarely remembers his dreams in detail, but sometimes recalls visions of strange basalt cities rising up from a barren plain beneath a moonless sky, or of endless, twisting corridors of queer greenish stone where scuttling things lurk just out of sight in a murky, impenetrable gloom reeking of brine and blood.

Several bodily features give clues to John's identity.  A circular scar on his right pectoral suggests an old bullet wound, and a second scar - long and jagged - along his thigh likely indicates a knife-wound.  In addition, he bears several distinctive tattoos that closely resemble those of certain obscure tribes in the Solomon Islands, suggesting that John may have been a sailor or explorer of some variety.

William has employed John as a servant and had him inducted into the Society of the Black Rose so that he would accompany him on Society business.  John has proved himself useful on several occasions already, demonstrating superb swordsmanship when handed a blade.  He is often employed as a lanthorn-bearer and general menial during the various exploits of William's Petal.  How (and why) John lost his memory is still a complete mystery.

Skills and Abilities: Swordsmanship, ???

Languages: English (Fluent), ???

Religion: None.

Possessions: Clothing, Rapier, Dagger, Lanthorn, Oil, Rucksack, Rope (50 ft., Silk), Black Rose Pendant.

Out of Character

Anyone who chooses to play John Lear can decide on the details of his back-story and his skills and abilities (picking four each) and additional languages known (up to two more, or three if they forfeit a skill).   Alternatively they could leave these decisions up to the GM and only discover their abilities organically during play.

The Novice



Novice to Father Erasmus Borgia, the Franciscan neophyte Ludovico Meneghin fled France with his master even after the Inquisitor was excommunicated; Ludovico himself was spared excommunication, being essentially beneath the notice of the Roman ecclesiastical authorities.  Left at the foot of a monastery in Northern Italy as an infant, Ludovico was raised in the church and as such possesses unwavering faith.  He also is gifted with a peculiar talent: by entering a trance-like state accessible through prayer and contemplation of Scripture the youth (but seventeen years of age) seems to be able to channel non-corporeal entities.  If a quill is placed in Ludovico's hand while he is in his trance he will begin to write, sometimes in languages he has no knowledge of (often in dead or defunct languages such as Biblical Hebrew, ancient Akkadian, Aramaic, or old forms of Gaelic).  The messages vary in length from a few words or sentences to voluminous tracts of writing.  Often they are very cryptic or fragmented in nature, though they are usually grammatically coherent.  The handwriting and style of such writing varies wildly, and does not resemble Ludovico's usual hand.  When the boy emerges from his trance he has no memory of the time he spent writing.

While the monks who raised Ludovico believed that the boy was channelling the spirits of angels, Father Erasmus suspects that the youth is in fact transcribing the thoughts of the dead.  Many of the youth's transcriptions might be construed as the final thoughts of individuals about to die.  While Ludovico's trance-writing is no more voluminous while the boy is in graveyards he has been known to spontaneously slip into it at the scenes of murders of executions.  Once, when crossing an ancient battlefield in France, he began copying down a frantic series of bloody-minded and fearful expostulations in a mixture of Latin and Gaulish before blacking out completely, apparently overwhelmed.  On another occasion the boy was seized by a particularly violent spasm and began writing in a sinister, unknown tongue, his face contorted into a grimace of pain.  When he awakened his head was throbbing, his heart was racing, his breath was short, and a peculiar smell and taste lingered in his mouth and nostrils.  Whether Ludovico is truly communing with extra-corporeal entities or whether he is simply picking up on the residual thoughts of now-dead souls is unknown.

Ludovico is a quiet youth, frequently employed by Father Erasmus to carry heavy objects, equipment, or supplies.  He is an accomplished botanist and gardener and quite skilful in the concoction of herbal tinctures and cures, having spent many hours under the tutelage of the monastery herbalist.

Skills and Abilities: Herbalism, Mediumship (Automatic Writing), Theology (Catholic).

Languages: Latin (Fluent), Italian (Adequate), English (Poor).

Religion: Catholic.

Possessions: Clothing, Rosary, Crucifix, Quill & Ink, Vellum Scroll, Charcoal, Herbs, Mortar & Pestle, Black Rose Pendant.

The Charlatan



Born in the eastern Holy Roman Empire in a small village somewhere in the Carpathians, the wily confidence artist and trickster Vladmír Albrecht once wandered from town to town pretending to be a dhampir - a creature half-vampire, half-human, possessing vampiric powers but without either their dire weakness or susceptibility to evil.  Gifted with the ability to perceive vampires even when invisible, dhampir thus often become vampire-hunters.  Of course, Vladmír is fully human.  He and a companion - one Alexander Lupsecu - toured Eastern Europe, Alexander playing the role of vampire, Vladmír that of hunter.  The pair would begin by creating small puncture wounds on the necks of local livestock; then Alexander, suitably costumed, would lurk about the fringes of a town, occasionally frightening passersby and working up a superstitious fervour.  Then Vladmír would arrive, wooden stakes and garlic at the ready, his pistol loaded with silver bullets.  The townsfolk, terrified out of their wits, would pay the charming and loquacious Vladmír to rid them of the vampire; then the duo would stage a mock fight, culminating in Vladmír 'slaying' Alexander with the aid of a blunted stake and a packet of pig's blood.  Vladmír would then insist on disposing of the body himself by crucifying it outside of town, warning villagers not to approach the vampire's corpse till after dawn, when sunlight would destroy the revenant.  The pair would scatter a few ashes around the point of crucifixion and then split their ill-gotten gains before slinking away towards the next village.

Vladmír's scornful scepticism of the supernatural came to an end when Alexander, while swimming in a remote mountain pool, was devoured by a pair of horrid, algae-slathered, membranous-fleshed toad-things resembling the vodyanoi of Slavic myth.  Fleeing the sight of his friend's slaughter at the hands of these monstrous amphibians Vladmír became mentally unhinged.  He wandered into a nearby valley raving and gibbering to himself before collapsing into a state of catatonia.  Found by travelers, he was taken to a nearby hospital and interred in a locked ward, where he eventually came under the scrutiny of Herr Doctor Wolfgang Prinn, the renowned if somewhat madcap German alienist.  Using a mixture of hypnotism, medicine, and therapy, Prinn restored Vladmír's sanity (more or less - the sight of water in the moonlight, or of amphibians, still makes the young man extremely agitated).  Taking on the youth as an assistant and guide through his tour of Eastern Europe, Prinn eventually had Vladmír inducted into the Society of the Black Rose after the two shared in several occult escapades, during which Vladmír's talents for disguise and deception proved indispensable.

Skills and Abilities: Deceit, Disguise, Folklore, Marksmanship, Outdoorsmanship, Prestidigitation.

Languages: Czech (Fluent), Slovak (Fluent), English (Adequate), Hungarian (Adequate), Romanian (Poor), German (Poor).

Religion: Orthodox.

Possessions: Clothing, Disguise Kit (Makeup, False Beard, etc), Knife, Flintlock Pistol, 25 Bullets (Silver) & Shot, Crucifix, Black Rose Pendant.

The Alienist



Educated in medicine at the University of Ingolstadt, the acclaimed though highly eccentric Wolfgang Prinn is an alienist of the first calibre.  His scientific reputation is only slightly compromised by his obsession with all things occult and folkloric; Herr Doctor Prinn has been known to indulge in long tours of Europe during which he compiles obscure myths and legends.  He is also an addict, both of cigars and of laudanum (though he keeps the latter habit secret) and possesses minor clairvoyant powers - specifically, his dreams have often proved to be prophetic in character, though clouded with cryptic symbolism and strangeness.  His laudanum addiction was originally acquired after the Doctor began using the chemical as a soporific to experiment with his apparently divinatory powers.  His dreams' predictive character appears to typically extend only a few days into the future, rarely over a week - though, on rare occasions and after especially strong doses of laudanum, he has caught glimpses of events that transpired months or even years later.  The Doctor keeps a meticulous dream journal and consults it frequently.

Now an older man, Wolfgang Prinn has been a member of the Society of the Black Rose for many years and has had numerous encounters with occult phenomena over the course of his extensive travels.  He is a close colleague of the English alchemist, physician, and fellow society-member Ambrose Morgan and claims to have met the notorious sorcerer Johann Faustus some seventy years after Faustus' supposed death in an alchemical explosion.  For the past several years he has employed the former charlatan and one-time lunatic Vladmír Albrecht as a servant, assistant, and guide.  He is also well-acquainted with the amnesiac man named John Lear, whose condition - seemingly impervious even to the exercise of animal magnestism (a speciality of Prinn's) - is a source both of fascination and frustration for the psychiatrist.

Skills and Abilities: Clairvoyance (Oneiromancy), Eldritch Lore, Folklore, Hypnotism (Animal Magnetism), Medical Knowledge.

Languages: German (Fluent), English (Fleunt), Latin (Fluent), Ancient Greek (Adequate), Hungarian (Adequate), Italian (Poor).

Religion: Protestant.

Possessions: Clothing, Cane, Cigar Case (10 Cigars), Oneirocriticon of Achmet, Laudanum (8 doses), Quill & Ink, Dream Journal, Pocket-watch, Black Rose Pendant.

Out of Character

Any scenario designed around Ambrose Morgan (such as 'Beyond the Wall of Sanity') could easily be adapted to accommodate Herr Doctor Wolfgang Prinn instead (or in addition).

I fully endorse an anachronistic, Freud-inspired approach to playing Prinn.  Think also of Dr. Van Helsing (the original, or the Anthony Hopkins version, not the Hugh Jackman version).

The Conquistador



One of the bandeirantes that ravished South America for slaves and treasure, Juan Henriques Santos is a skilled sailor, navigator, and warrior who participated in the ransack of various Brazilian cities and settlements, an experience that haunts him as surely as the other horror he found within the sweltering depths of the jungles.  Obsessed with the discovery of certain hidden cities and treasure-troves hinted at by obscure engravings and in the muttered tales told by the indigenes, Juan led expeditions into the thickest parts of the Amazon, searching of riches.  Frequently these expeditions were recklessly executed, with Juan insisting that his men press on even after darkness into unmapped and unscouted territories.

On one such excursion Juan's men began to go missing.  Some blamed Tupi warriors for the disappearances; others claimed to have heard ominous growling sounds in the underbrush and insisted that the missing men must have been devoured by jaguars.  Still others whispered of were-jaguars or of stranger things half-glimpsed in the rain.  Disregarding the protestations of his companions Juan pushed his men ahead into the jungle.  Eventually an old, stone structure emerged from the moist greenery - a temple or similar structure carved with grotesque reliefs and statues and covered in moss and other vegetation.  Clearly, even the local peoples shunned the place, for the rainforest had grown close to the walls, and there were no signs of habitation.  A square of blackness seemed the only entrance.  None of Juan's men dared enter the fell shrine, so Juan himself stepped into the darkness within, bearing a single torch, his blade of Toledo steel shimmering in the firelight.  Within a series of long corridors twisted and turned, adorned with weird symbols and echoing with faint, rasping laughter, like rubbing snakeskin.  As Juan neared the center of the maze his torch flickered and went out suddenly.  In the sudden darkness something large and squamous, like the coils of a snake, brushed against him; and then a clawed hand, unmistakable even in the pitch blackness, caressed his face almost lovingly.

Juan fled shrieking, stumbling through the dark and labyrinthine passages of the temple till from sheer luck he came upon the exit.  As he rushed outside, gasping for air, he found that his men had vanished: only a bloody handprint on a nearby boulder of rubble remained.  At that moment a hissing sound from within the temple made Juan shudder once more, and he ran into the rainforest, scrambling madly through the foliage till he reached the nearest settlement.  He took the next ship from Porto Seguro back to Europe, refusing to recount his experience to anyone.  It was on the ship back to Portugal that he met Edwin Lazarus, a puritan swordsman and member of the Society of the Black Rose returning from the New World after an escapade in Mesoamerica.  The normally taciturn man sensed that Juan had glimpsed something of the world Beyond and slowly befriended the disturbed sailor over the course of the voyage.  When they arrived in Lisbon Edwin offered Juan membership in the Society, convincing him that his skills and experience would be of use to the secret organization, and that by confronting the forces of madness Juan would stop himself from being consumed by the memory of the nightmare in the jungle - a memory that still awakens him at night, covered in a sheen of sweat.

Skills and Abilities: Marksmanship, Navigation, Sailing, Swordsmanship.

Languages: Portuguese (Fluent), Spanish (Fluent), English (Adequate), Tupi (Adequate), French (Poor).

Religion: Catholic.

Possessions: Breast Plate, Clothing, Compass, Blunderbuss, 50 Shots, Toledo Steel Sword, Black Rose Pendant.

Ivan Drago



Tattooed and branded by his mother's tribe of exiled Moldovan gypsies, the towering Ivan Drago was brought up to fear the dreykavic, to worship the dhampir, to love his mother, to befriend others with gypsy tumbles and gypsy songs, and to challenge the unknown. Drago learned the folklore, the Tarot, the stories of the fates and he can recite them by rote, and he knows their truth.

His vision blurred in one eye, from being struck violently in the head by a charcoal poker, the six foot three Drago lived by chopping wood and besting others in feats of strength. On his skin, he has tattooed remembrances of those defeated, which include men, boars, a black bear of the darkest Dnieper, and even a strange blurred thing about which he does not talk and of which he has attempted to efface.

His tribe traveled from Moldova to Rus to Germany and although many in the tribe engaged in thievery, Drago never did - at first because of his disability - he would always be caught because his lookout eye was poor. But Drago almost religiously opposes theft now after he had a vision of malevolent lights dancing and dull-eyed crows feasting on the charred corpse of a hollow-grey-eyed thief of his tribe; who he later discovered had truly died, burned by villagers.

After Drago's mother and youngest sibling succumbed to a wasting sickness; Drago left the tribe, carrying their cherished hearts wrapped in a backpack with preservatives; pursuing rumors of a holy dhampir who killed vampires. He seeks the man's knowledge of the black arts and everlasting life--hoping to bring his dead back to life. To that end, he feigns interest in destroying the dark, even when seeking to harness some secrets to overcome death itself.

Skills and Abilities Commanding Presence, Cartomancy/Dowsing, Gypsy Acrobatics, Herbalism, Socially Shrewd

Languages: Roma (Fluent) Slovak (Fluent), Romanian (Fluent), German (Adequate), Rus (Adequate), Czech (Poor), Hungarian (Adequate), Serb (Poor), Georgian (Poor) Turkish (Poor)

Religion: Pagan.

Possessions: Clothing, Knife, Big Knife, Skinning Knife, Bigger Knife, Gauntlets, Tarot Cards, 2 Shrunken Hearts (Preserved), Backpack, Axe, Waterskin

Out of Character

Created by Light Dragon

SCENARIOS

The Old World

Disappearances at Dún Cruach

Several Society members are visiting the small, weather-beaten island of Nodens' Rock in the middle of the Irish Sea, hoping to acquire a rubbing from an ancient Celtic monolith somewhere in the region.  While staying at the misty, secluded fishing village of Dún Cruach, however, the group hear stories of children disappearing - and of the malignant faerie folk some claim live beneath a nearby hill.  When an uncannily thick fog rolls in making sailing impossible, the visitors find themselves trapped on Nodens' Rock, and repair to Dún Cruach's only inn, a ramshackle establishment called The Silver Hand...

Beyond the Wall of Sanity

A former colleague of Ambrose Morgan, Francis Marais, has written a cryptic letter to the physician urgently requesting his presence at his recently established lunatic asylum Château de Saint-Sæthryth, a converted castle in the gloomy Pyrenees of French Basque Country, on the southern border of Averoigne.  While the director was strangely vague as to the exact reason for his request, his letter speaks of a 'transcendent breakthrough,' and of experiments which 'collapse the boundaries betwixt mind and body, betwixt the Visible and the Invisible world!'  He also hints at trouble with the locals, the ill-favoured villagers of an isolated mountain settlement not far from the castle.

Whom He May Devour

The Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I has forcibly expelled the Jews of the Im Werd community in Vienna, renaming the area Leopoldstat in his own honour.  But all is not well in the Emperor's newly 'purified' district.  The new, gentile residents of Leopold's Town are dying mysteriously, found weirdly pulverized in their homes, behind locked doors, limbs twisted and contorted into disturbing, impossible poses.  Sometimes, at night, the Danube seems to glisten like blood, and a fell darkness has descended on the city.  People in the street whisper of the Golem of Prague, of a mysterious carriage come from Bohemia, of the seven plagues of Egypt.  These mutterings have only increased incidences of anti-Semitic violence, and Rabbi Tzvi Zebi - a kabbalist and member of the secret Society of the Black Rose - has requested assistance to put a stop to the mounting atrocities.

Algol

William Fitzroy has tracked down an Arabian alchemist, Ifrahim Alhazred, claiming to be a direct descendent of Abdul Alhazred, the famed mystic and poet of the eighth century said to have visited the Lost City Iram of the Pillars and authored a certain forbidden text ruthlessly suppressed by Christian ecclesiastical authorities of all sects.  Believing that Ifrahim possesses a cure to his secret affliction, William has arranged to journey into the Ottoman Empire to the province of Algeria in order to meet the alchemist and, with any luck, obtain the cure for his sickness.  When he and several colleagues of the Society of the Black Rose arrive in the dusty town of T'Sbaar, however, they find more than the alchemist waiting for them.

Slaughter on the Seine

One of Edwin Lazarus' old associates, the lieutenant-general of the Parisian police Marc-Renee de Voyer de Paulmy, has contacted the witch-hunter in hopes of a consultation.  Horrifically mutilated bodies have been appearing with increasing regularity in the Seine, and the city is in a state of near-panic.  The Prefecture de Police have few leads, but the citizenry are spreading rumours of supernatural agencies at work.  Bringing with him several trusted allies from the Society of the Black Rose, Lazarus hopes to put a stop to the gruesome killings and restore order to Paris.
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« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2010, 08:57:57 AM »

Hard question.

I find these time periods extremely attractive for play, and the opportunity is mind-boggling.

Looking forward to Sorcery!
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« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2010, 10:37:14 AM »

Out of Character

Thanks for the encouragement!

I think I'm going to stick with early 18th, as late 18th is arguably already an Age of Unreason/Madness, with all those Romantic poets and Gothic authors contesting the rationalism of the last two centuries.  Setting it in the heart of that rationalism allows for more thematic tension.  It probably wouldn't impact the actual game hugely anyway.

EDIT: Added the Society of the Black Rose to the first post.
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« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2010, 05:37:04 PM »

Are the these things that humanity is running into new? Or are they really old, ala Cthulhu mythos? If so, how come there aren't any folklore that mention them? Or should some folklore not be discarded?

As for the time period, the main 18th century things that come to mind (to me) are more colony-things in the Americas. That being said, the 47 Ronin happened early 18th century apparently too, as a side note.
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« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2010, 06:05:10 PM »

[blockquote=Llum]Are the these things that humanity is running into new? Or are they really old, ala Cthulhu mythos? If so, how come there aren't any folklore that mention them? Or should some folklore not be discarded?

As for the time period, the main 18th century things that come to mind (to me) are more colony-things in the Americas. That being said, the 47 Ronin happened early 18th century apparently too, as a side note.[/blockquote]

Out of Character

They're probably mostly of the unfathomably ancient variety.  As in Lovecraft, folklore (especially obscure, backwoods folklore) sometimes reflects terrible realities.  However, since the Things from Beyond don't tend to be particularly interested in humanity they may largely go unnoticed.  Like Cthulhu they might be hibernating, or sealed away.  Others might simply not have noticed humanity until now, when human civilization is beginning to advance at an accelerated rate.

One of the themes, in the Lovecraftian vein, is the idea of human limitation, and the failure of rationalism in the face of horrors beyond mortal understanding.  Folklore may not be science but it still has value.  I'm thinking here especially of "The Whisperer in the Darkness."

The Americas would probably make a great setting for this as well as Europe; the Salem witch trials were in 1692-3.

I hadn't actually heard the story of the 47 Ronin before somehow - very bizarre, and fascinating!
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« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2010, 06:09:38 PM »

Hadn't heard the definitive tale of Samurai Honor, the 47 Ronin - that's sacriledge!

I've always wanted to do a horror type setting in colonial America as well. Salem Witch Trials and Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the House of Seven Gables as inspirations some you mention, but also native American wendigo, spirits, native fey (there are some stories), ghosts, voodoo and slavery, piracy, Masonic conspiracies, Cthulu-esque, Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.

Did some research on native American stuff, but not much beyond a giant snake behind Niagra Falls, the wendigo, thunderbirds, panthers and sasquatch references.

And besides voodoo, importing Loup Garou with the Cajuns was another idea.

GP
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« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2010, 06:15:47 PM »

Out of Character

You've got the feel exactly right, Gamer Printshop!

If I do end up playing this I think I'll probably start in Europe and then do a New World episode subsequently.

Slowly adding characters, members of a Petal of the Society of the Black Rose.  There'll be about 6-7 total to choose from, but I'll probably be looking to run a smaller group (3-4) composed from the selection.

By the way, the pictures of all public domain (the first set are from Robert Hooke's Micrographia, the Character portraits are culled from period paintings.
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« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2010, 06:38:46 PM »

In Orson Scott Card's Alvin the Maker series, a couple interesting ideas.

Benjamin Franklin is a wizard - harnesses lightening, clockworks, musical instruments.

Napoleon - wore a charm where those around him wanted to please him, as if all his accomplishments as a General and and Emperor were solely due to a single charm. Apparently something he acquired in Egypt.

Of course the timeline is wrong, as the Alvin the Maker series sits from 1800 to the Civil War. Still some interesting ideas there.
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« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2010, 06:48:54 PM »

Out of Character

Oh Egypt.  Always causing trouble.

Thanks for the reference - sounds like a great series!  If this proves fun I may eventually do other scenarios set in the later eighteenth century, closer to the time-frame in Card's series.
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« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2010, 07:43:41 PM »

In the Alvin the Maker series, everyone is born with a 'knack'. For some its something simple, like being able to measure without a measuring stick, perfectly, for others its making some one close to you more charismatic, for some its starting a fire by making sparks, for Alvin he has the most powerful knack and that is to 'make things'. Water is the unmaker and Alvin's enemy. Alvin is the seventh son of a seventh son (the name of the first book).

The series is a look at early 19th century American history, and an altered history as well. The Crown Colonies of Georgia and the Carolinas are still claimed by Britain with Camelot as the new world capital. New England and Pennsylvania are separate from the 'US' which is Virginia to New York, west to Hio, Kenetuck, Wobbish Territory and the Noisy River Territory (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois).

Altered history is not a favorite RPG genre for me, but I really loved these books.

GP
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« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2010, 10:45:19 PM »

This is great, absolutely awesome. However, the Society of the Black Rose strikes me as a kind of Justice League or something that panders too much towards game mechanics and crunch, which could bring down lots of fantastic opportunities you have here for awesomeness and conflict. It just comes off too much like the "Special Secret Orders" that exist in so many settings and video games in particular.

that being said, this could be really really cool. Russia could be a fantastic sub-campaign setting. Novgorod or Muscovy?
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« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2010, 01:29:49 AM »

Out of Character

Yeah, I can understand why the Society might be a bit cliche.  I tried to make it a bit different in that, like the Freemasons, there's no overarching leadership or centralized authority calling the shots - just groups of individuals.  At least that way it's the players who do the thinking and create the story, rather than shadowy higher-ups.

The alternative makes having a party of investigators seem rather contrived and artificial; and the fact is that there were lots of secret societies and orders during the last few centuries, many of them centered around the occult, like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Ghost Club, and the Rosicrucians.  I'm going for more League of Extraordinary Gentlemen than Justice League, but in general I want the PCs to feel fairly low-powered rather than being invincible he-men.

Russia could be great.  Novgorod does have a creepy feel to it.  Maybe frigid abominations buried beneath the Siberian ice...
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« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2010, 05:43:57 PM »

Gamer Printshop


In the Alvin the Maker series, everyone is born with a 'knack'. For some its something simple, like being able to measure without a measuring stick, perfectly, for others its making some one close to you more charismatic, for some its starting a fire by making sparks, for Alvin he has the most powerful knack and that is to 'make things'. Water is the unmaker and Alvin's enemy. Alvin is the seventh son of a seventh son (the name of the first book).

The series is a look at early 19th century American history, and an altered history as well. The Crown Colonies of Georgia and the Carolinas are still claimed by Britain with Camelot as the new world capital. New England and Pennsylvania are separate from the 'US' which is Virginia to New York, west to Hio, Kenetuck, Wobbish Territory and the Noisy River Territory (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois).

Altered history is not a favorite RPG genre for me, but I really loved these books.

GP

I also.  I enjoyed the first couplemof these, but they ran into some disconnect as they went on.  
However, the ideas worked well.  
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« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2010, 10:41:44 PM »

Out of Character

Added more characters.

A note on my approach to the characters.  I think that the big problem with playing in a Lovecraftian or quasi-Loevcraftian universe is that because of the nihilistic themes of such a setting, characters tend to be fairly unextraordinary, even somewhat banal.  While that's fine in stories where the focus ins't on the characters themselves but the weird events they find themselves in, it's less fun in a game.  With this in mind I want to make the characters interesting in their own right, even if most of them end up dead or mad by the end of an adventure.  While I don't want superheroes I do want the various characters to feel unique and capable.  The Society of the Black Rose is kind of intended as a less extravagant 18th century version of the B.P.R.D. (from Hellboy), though decentralized and without ties to a government.

EDIT: Leetz - or anyone else - do the Society members come off as too larger-than-life?  Should they be toned down?  I changed the description of the Society itself to make it slightly less inclusive, though still flexible.
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« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2010, 05:51:06 AM »

I like the characters! And I don't think the characters are too larger-than-life. Their more occult abilities are of the weaker or inherently limited variety meaning there is little chance for any of the characters to come off as supernatural übermen or anything.
Their backgrounds are nuanced without being overloaded with one or two secrets/quirks to play with for each of them. Oddly, what I perceive of as the main protagonist (Lazarus) seems to be the one with the least in-game hooks. All you can really use in the game is that he has travelled and is good at killing evil. The Enigma could perhaps do with one or two more strange hints to his undiscerned past; the scars are fairly mundane.
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