Five Behind-the-Scenes facts from our GURPS Victorian Horror campaign

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Summary: Decided to give a little tribute to Jason and Katie, and a bit of the workings of how I write campaigns, by sharing five facts about our GURPS campaign, some of which were only barely hinted at in game.

BLOT: (09 May 2013 - 03:33:08 PM)

Five Behind-the-Scenes facts from our GURPS Victorian Horror campaign

Jason and Katie Sharitt, who have been friends to Sarah and myself for better part of a decade, have left Huntsville for the Great Frozen (aka, Anchorage, AK). They have been players in a fairly long running GURPS game centered around Victorian Horror, translated in the last half to Victorian "adventure" Horror (more bombastic, a bit more action-y). There were two major plotlines going on, only one was partially exposed, and for now I'll assume the game is in pretty permanent hiatus (it started as an online, play-by-Skype, so might one day return to that depending on factors). However, to expose a bit about the game, to show a tad of my creative process, and to generally highlight elements of the kind of horror stories I was into at the time, here are five general "behind-the-scenes" facts about the game.

#1 Jago and Litefoot meet the M.R. James Podcast. One big inpiration for the game is Big Finish's Jago and Litefoot series, with some place names and character names and plot points being alluded. There are tons of other sources, including lots of Victorian stories and things from Arthur Machen and M.R. James. After making a few key references to James's "The Rose Garden" in a story about a teenager impregnanted with a demon, a pair of Victorian paranormal adventurers showed up, Will and Mike, based roughly on the hosts of A Podcast to the Curious.

#2 A New Satan for an Old World. The Dwn Aer, also known by many other names such as The Long Man, is the King of Elves, and had been glimpsed a few times as a pale human of indefinite size with eyes showing the nightsky and blood-red teeth. He fell in a meteor, wrapped in iron, and his backstory is entirely unknown. Once he got to Earth, he became the source of all magic, and divided a small portion of his power between his four sons—the Elf Lords—and his hundred daughters (basically banshees). He is being behind the game world's Satan archetypes, and shows in most every religion/mythos as a serpent [and is a shout-out, though indirectly, to Cthulhu]. The Elf-King reign was disrupted by the onset of the Iron Age. Grace, an older character with psychic powers, became infected by him in an encounter. She was to find this out over a series of nightmares when a pale teenage boy kept showing up in her dreams while excerpts from Goethe's "The Elf King" show up as patches written in dark blood [in German] on the walls.

#3 The Four Elements Gone Awry. In a corruption of the four classic elements, the Elf Lords had domain over The Wild [Fire], The Flesh [Earth], The Decay [Water], and The New [Air]. Mekmet, The Destroyer, and Lord of the Wild Hunt, was extremely cruel while Elau, the Lord of Seas [and Decay] tended to be conniving, and Farddyn, the gluttonous Lord of Flesh, was cowardly. Danedd, the Lord of Innocents, was the most complicated; he was possibly the most terrifying, but he was actively working against his brothers and was the most scientific in his machinations. Despite this, one adventure [never ran] was meant to involve finding Danedd's work on a group of missing children, where some were turned into living wasps nests while others had their skeletons grafted, while they were living, to trees. The five Elves were extreme versions of the sort of Little People that Machen wrote about, an intention of the series from the beginning. Farddyn's eyes were fleshy and his crown was of entrails while Elau's eyes were stagnant water and his crown was of coral. Mekmet's eyes were thorns and he wore a crown of great antlers while Danedd had multiple smaller eyes in his sockets and a childs-teeth crown.

#4 Other Never Used Elements. Other storylines were never used or were morphed. One included a kid's wooden Punch puppet that kept killing other kids at his boarding school. Another involved animals taken from a zoo and turned into part-machine killers. There was a night-circus where the performers had strangely dead faces and eyes that did not quite match their heads, and one involving a maze that kept growing out of the streets of London and swallowing people alive. One of the very first stories [meant to be the second], was to involve a group of rabbis raising up a golem to kill off members of a anti-Jewish group. It got split into about three parts and buried as backstory in other stories.

#5 Working with Gender Differences. Since it was easiest for Jason's philandering, gambling accountant—Ezra—to be accepted as a proper Victorian adventurer, the two females of the group had elements added in to give them a more personal take on the story. Grace—Katie's original character who retired about two-thirds of the way through—had the psychic infection. Esme—Sarah's character—not only kept her Jewish roots fairly hidden but also her potential—unacted upon, at any rate—sexual orientation under wraps. This was going to be partially explored by the presence of a tall, pretty blonde friend at college, though the friend was going to have a dark secret and attached to old adventures the group had uncovered. Something that might have a connection to a young demon child that has attached to Esme, though whether for good or evil has not yet been explored.



Written by Doug Bolden

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