Saturday, 24 October 2015

Cornish Conspiracy - an idea for yet another horror campaign

I'm still in the middle of running a Deadlands Noir sandbox campaign for my group, and beyond that, am also pondering The Zalozhniy Quartet for Night's Black Agents, of which more later. Hence, what follows should really be deemed as something that sits even further out in the universe of possible gaming concepts, especially as it is still relatively unformed.

Inspired by finishing Daphne Du Maurier's excellent Jamaica Inn, which I actually listened to on Audible, and having quite a bit of time to burn this week on planes and trains due to a trip out to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, I've come up with an idea for a new horror / mystery campaign. It has not a name as such yet.

Essentially, the game is set in Cornwall in the mid-18th century. It combines elements of the supernatural with gothic suspense. Timewise, I'm thinking here 1760s, with most, if not all of the action taking place west of the river Tamar. The player characters are all residents of Cornwall.

A few ideas for possible characters I've come up with so far:

  • A highwayman who masquerades as something else, possibly working in partnership with an NPC. He sneaks onto coaches and then robs the passengers before the coach stops at a pre-arranged rendezvous point.
  • A member of the Exeter town watch
  • A lady's maid, who is regularly used as a courier for her mistress, who may / may not be up to no good
  • A country doctor, freshly returned from military service in North America
  • An alchemist, hiding out in Cornwall on his brother's estate having been accused of nefarious crimes in London

These are just a few ideas. I'm pondering how you bring such a disparate group together, but I guess that is the purpose of the opening adventure. The rules would be Renaissance, which is a variant of Basic Roleplaying (BRP) and RuneQuest, with which we are relatively familiar.

As with my Deadlands campaign, I'm finding my favoured style of play is now what I call directed sandbox, driven by over-arching campaign themes, the actions and decisions of the players, and their existing ties to the environment, whatever that might be. Consequently, I'm sketching out the milieu for the adventures first, rather than the plot. Apart from Jamaica Inn itself, inspiration is coming from the recent UK TV series Poldark and the French film Brotherhood of the Wolf. People and places are springing unbidden onto the page. It is all coalescing into quite an entertaining mystery.

Renaissance requires that PCs are aligned with a faction (which replaces the cult in RQ as a sponsoring body), thus I'm currently brainstorming what that might be and how it could potentially draw together the disparate group mentioned above. It could well be a Masonic lodge in Exeter. It could be an influential individual, like the country doctor outlined above, or a businessman like Ross Poldark.

Further material on this if I stick with it. I might even post some of the protagonists on the blog.


  1. How about starting in media res?

    Pcs are ... by circumstance/ ill fortune.... exposed to the supernatural.... or an event which binds them together.....

    Eg classic travelling by coach in the rain but are robbed at gun point by a headless horseman.

    Or something less supernatural....
    They could all be Catholics who secretly practice (it is Cornwall)

    Or they could all be part of a local community who smuggles. As in Poldark, times are tough.

    The Catholic one is easiest.

    Or they are into the occult. It starts as a secret book/ reading club ala the tv series about 2 magicians. ...Mr Strange and ??? And their dalliances with magic change things. ...

    Or that they are all in a hotel when a supernatural event happens.... possibly caused by the alchemist. ...

    They assist the alchemist in saving someone's life with magic.....


    Good luck. Better to brainstorm over beer! ;)

  2. You could start with a funeral; it's an excellent way to bring player-characters of different backgrounds together without having to add any sort of secret history.

  3. I quite like the funeral idea, although it was used to kick off Carrion Crown too, as I recall. I'm listening to the Woman In Black on Audible right now, which uses a similar device.

    1. It was, and I've used it a couple of times too, but I'd say it's not quite a cliché yet!