Home > games, Uncategorized, WFRP > Detlef Sierck Presents: Mostellaria (The Haunted House), by Plautus

Detlef Sierck Presents: Mostellaria (The Haunted House), by Plautus


Borrowed from the Long Island Press. Uncredited.

 

You have probably never heard of Titus Maccius Plautus. He lived in Rome in the second century BCE, when it was still a republic, and he wrote farces. Shakespeare stole his play The Brothers Menaechmus and called it A Comedy of Errors, and Molière stole The Pot of Gold for his play L’Avare (“The Miser”). The musical (and movie) A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum combined elements from several of Plautus’s plays, and the 1963 London production starred Frankie Howerd, whose TV comedy series Up Pompeii was almost certainly inspired by it.

 

I discovered Plautus in the mid-70s, reading his plays in translation as part of a side-project from my Latin class. It was a golden age for farce and low comedy in Britain, with the Carry On films on television every weekend, or so it seemed, and TV shows like Up Pompeii, Are You Being Served?, On the Buses, and others holding out against the more surreal comedy stylings of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Goodies. Discovering Plautus and his fellow Classical farceurs Terence and Menander was an eye-opening experience, proving that farce is eternal – and that there’s no such thing as a new story.

 

Mostellaria (“The Haunted House”) has a timeless setup. With his father out of town, young Philolaches is hosting an epic rager – and Dad returns early. There’s no time to stop the party and clear everyone out, so it carries on unabated while a resourceful servant named Tranio intercepts his master.

 

Tranio spins the best lie he can think of: the house is haunted. The merry din from inside is really the moans and screams of tortured souls, and the sounds of breaking crockery and furniture are violent poltergeist manifestations. An inconvenient money-lender has to be explained away, and other obstacles are overcome before the truth comes out.

 

Many English translations of Mostellaria are available, including this free one from Project Gutenberg. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is available on multiple streaming services, and among its many other attractions it features the immortal Buster Keaton in one of his last roles as the returning father, Erronius.

 

While A Funny Thing combined it with plots and characters from several of Plautus’s other plays, the basic idea of Mostellaria could make an entertaining one-shot adventure in an urban setting. The PCs are friends of a young noble, or they need to curry favor with him for some reason. As the party rages on, ever louder and more obvious, they must devise an explanation to save their patron from his father’s wrath, and maintain it in the face of all manner of problems from late-arriving guests to impatient creditors. In a fantasy setting, a real ghost might provide a plot twist, as the party literally wakes the dead and the outraged spirits of family ancestors must be pacified.

 

What other plots and incidents would you add to turn The Haunted House into a full-fledged “Rough Nights” adventure? Drop your ideas in the comments section below. Meanwhile, Monday Maps #8 has some plans and elevations of noble mansions that you might find useful.

 

Other Detlef Sierck Productions

The Alchemist, by Ben Jonson

 

About Detlef Sierck

Detlef Sierck, the greatest dramatist of his day, was created by Kim Newman (under the pesudonym Jack Yeovil) for the Warhammer novel DrachenfelsHe made guest appearances in Jack Yeovil’s Genevieve Undead and William King’s Skavenslayer, and has appeared in two products for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: the Warhammer Companion for  WFRP 1st edition and Rough Nights and Hard Days for WFRP 4th edition.

Although Sierck is a part of Warhammer’s Old World, the plays and other sources in this series can serve as inspiration for almost any roleplaying game, in almost any kind of setting.

  1. March 25, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    Downloading Mostellaria now, thanks for the tip!

  1. March 26, 2020 at 3:25 pm

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