As you may know, for the last few years I’ve been working with Richard Iorio II of Rogue Games to help develop and promote their Colonial Gothic tabletop RPG. Historical games and horror games are two of my real passions, and Colonial Gothic compines the two beautifully.
Boiling it down to an elevator pitch, it’s the early history of America through the eyes of H. P. Lovecraft and Dan Brown. Your Heroes can encounter Salem witches, Native American spirits, scheming Freemasons, sorcerous Templars, voodoo, gris-gris, Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and much more. I keep teasing Richard that one day I’ll have Ben Franklin construct a lightning-powered mech and go mano a mano with Cthulhu – but perhaps that may be going a little too far. But if you liked The Crucible, Sleepy Hollow, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Last of the Mohicans, The Brotherhood of the Wolf, and the National Treasure movies, chances are you’ll like Colonial Gothic.
I’m very happy at the reception the game has received so far. Most of the supplements have garnered 4- and 5-star reviews on Roleplayers’ Chronicle, DriveThruRPG, and the other major review sites. The release of the Second Edition Rulebook last December was an important step, and we have many plans for the future. Among these is a new campaign, to be created under license by Mystical Throne Entertainment, publishers of Roleplayers’ Chronicle.
Rogue Games’ house campaign, Flames of Freedom, focuses on the shadowy side of the American Revolution. The Mystical Throne campaign (working title New World) is set a generation earlier, in the middle of the 18th century. Rogue Games has touched upon this period in its French and Indian War sourcebook, and it’s very good to see others inspired by the game and the setting to create fresh adventures. The Flames of Freedom campaign will continue, co-written by Richard and me. We have plans for at least two more instalments, possibly more, and the next one, Shadows Upon the Hudson, is scheduled for release later this year.
I’m looking forward to the New World campaign very much. Aaron Huss is a talented writer with a number of impressive credits under his belt, and I can’t wait to see what adventures he has in store for us.
I remember exactly when my fascination with weird science began. I was about eleven, and browsing in my local hobby shop for a new model kit to build. Naturally, it had to be a WWII aircraft (my previous post Airpulp covers my obsession with vintage aviation), but I was starting to wonder if I’d seen it all and built it all. Then there it was.
The Blohm & Voss 141 was arguably the wackiest aircraft of World War II – and that’s a no small claim given the likes of the Focke-Wulf Triebflugel, the Lippisch p.13a, and the Bachem Natter. It’s all the more weird because it actually made it into service. It was basically a twin-engined Focke-Wulf 189 that had been sawn in half to make an asymmetric single-engined aircraft. It was quite simply the weirdest thing I’d ever seen.
In the decades since then, I’ve conceived a great love of weird science and wacky inventions, from the cartoons of W. Heath Robinson (whose torch is proudly carried by Wallace’s Cracking Contraptions) to the Revolutionary War-era Turtle submarine to the Reniassance tanks and helicopters of Leonardo da Vinci. Recently, I got to write about a couple of them.
I came across the Air Loom and the Puckle Gun while doing some writing and design work for Empire: Total War. The Air Loom is not a tomato, as several friends have suggested. It was an 18th-century Infernal Device, a precursor to today’s orbital mind control satellites, and used “pneumatic chemistry” to mount targeted attacks on the minds and bodies of its victims. Given that our sole source of information about it was an inmate at London’s infamous Bedlam hospital, it probably never existed. That didn’t stop me writing an article for Pyramid magazine speculating on what it might have meant for the world if it had worked. Your tinfoil hat won’t help you against attacks like “Bomb Bursting,” “Lobster Cracking,” and “Lengthening of the Brain,” that’s for sure. And as for “Apoplexy-working with the nutmeg grater,” eesh – don’t get me started.
The Puckle Gun, on the other hand, is undeniably real. No, it didn’t fire puckles – that was the name of the inventor. It was a big musket (up to 2″ bore) with a revolving magazine of pre-loaded cartridges, and it could keep up a sustained fire rate of nine rounds per minute. That’s three times what a trained soldier could do with a 0.7″ Brown Bess musket, and that in ideal conditions: Puckle demonstrated the gun in the rain at least once. It was never adopted, though, because the design was too far ahead of the manufacturing technology of the day. Muzzle Blasts, the magazine of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association, carries the article in its July 2011 issue.
The nice thing about writing for games – or writing any kind of speculative fiction for that matter – is that it doesn’t matter whether or not a device actually existed, or really worked. If the idea is intriguing enough, then you can have a mad scientist or evil overlord get one working, and it’s all yours. No science too weird, no weapon too wacky, no plan too evil.
Now, if I could just get the Air Loom in my basement working, and persuade my bank manager to inhale this bottle of magnetized gas. . . .
Note: Since the release of the 2nd Edition Colonial Gothic Rulebook, this old entry has been getting a lot more views – which is great, but there’s a more up-to-date account here.
Colonial Gothic is a game I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, with my friend Richard Iorio II of Rogue Games. My elevator pitch is “the American Revolution as imagined by H. P. Lovecraft and Dan Brown” – it has scheming Freemasons, Templar survivors, Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, and weird Americana like Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil. It’s not just 1775-1783, either: the game can handle adventures from the mystery of the lost Roanoke Colony in the 1580s, through the Salem witch hysteria of the 1690s, all the way to the War of 1812 and possibly beyond.
I’ve written and edited a few titles for the game, and I’m working on ideas to expand the property outside gaming. Fiction is a big priority, and the “Cthulhu 1776″ concept has brought expressions of interest from a couple of publishers already. More news as it comes in.
Roleplayers Chronicle has just posted a “Designer’s Diary” feature for the Flames of Freedom campaign, which Richard and I are co-writing in the hope that it will do for Colonial Gothic what the Enemy Within campaign did for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. You can find it here, and this link will take you to a list of reviews of Colonial Gothic products.
All titles are available in a variety of e-book formats, and there is a range of e-book-only supplements for just 99 cents each. The most recent e-book is Organizations Book 1: The Templars, which collects together all the history, legends and consipracy theories about the Knights Templar (usable in any game) as well as describing their place in the world of Colonial Gothic.
Rogue Games also has an E-book Guarantee, which allows customers to order a free electronic copy of any title they have bought in dead-tree form.