Ghastly Affair: The Gothic Game of Romantic Horror

Victoria Silverwolf

Vegetarian Werewolf
Dec 9, 2012
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
I happened upon a role playing game that looks intriguing. It's called "Ghastly Affair -- The Gothic Game of Romantic Horror." It's set in the period from 1765 to 1820. The player's guide and presenter's manual are both free, and quite extensive and detailed. About 300 pages each!

I rolled myself up a character, just to fool around with it. Each characteristic is based on three six-sided dice, so 10.5 would be average.

CHARISMA: 8 (below average)

INTELLIGENCE: 7 (well below average)

WISDOM: 14 (high); later adjusted to 16 (very high)

STRENGTH: 8 (below average)

DEXTERITY: 6 (low)

CONSTITUTION: 13 (well above average)

PERVERSITY: 16 (very high)

Well! That's an interesting set of numbers. My extreme perversity makes me an Evil character. My high wisdom made me choose to be a Magician, which raises my Wisdom by two points.

That starts to give me some idea of the character.
Let's go a little further with this, using the character creation process suggested in the player's manual. Commentary from me in brackets.

CHARACTER INSPIRATION: Faust, Iago, and Oliver Twist. [This initial step doesn't seem to mean much in actual game play, but is intended to help the player imagine the character.]

CHARACTER CLASS: Magician. [Apparently it is suggested that you choose a class before your characteristics are determined, but it seemed to me to be more interesting the other way around.]

BACKGROUND: One of many unfortunate youngsters abandoned to the grim confines of an orphanage at infancy. Took to the dangerous streets of London at an early age. Would have died young in extreme poverty had it not been for surprisingly decent health [good constitution], given malnutrition and the unsanitary conditions of the city. One of London's magicians noticed his inborn gift for the supernatural [high wisdom] and took him in as an apprentice. After picking up a few tips, the wicked lad [high perversity] murdered his master and made a pact with a low level demon. In exchange for magical items [see later], the imp took the index finger of his left hand as payment. Since he is left-handed, this caused no little inconvenience [low dexterity]. Currently operates secretly as an independent warlock. The league of magicians would destroy him if he was discovered, because of his horrible crime against one of their own.

PERVERSITY: See above. [This can be chosen by the player, but letting the dice decide seemed more interesting.]

PERSONALITY: Quiet, secretive, sneaky, solitary, greedy, selfish, envious, cowardly, temperamental.

APPEARANCE: Short, slender, pale, dark-haired, dressed in cheap, simple clothing.

MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTERISTIC: Missing the left index finger.


SPECIAL ABILITIES [These are determined by the Magician class]: Esoteric Knowledge, Use Incantation, Perform Ceremony, Create Talismans, Employ Pact. [Detailed instructions for these abilities are found in the handbook. This character's basic abilities mean he will most likely rely on Incantations and Pacts. I call him a Warlock because his initiation into magic involved a Pact.]

WEAKNESSES: Magical Implement, Power Object. [Selected by player from a list of choices. Given this character, the former will be a seemingly ordinary dagger -- the murder weapon! The latter the contract, signed in blood from the severed finger, made with the demon.]

HIT POINTS: [Random number from 1 to 4 for this character class]: 2 [Pretty easy to kill]


ASSETS AND AFFLICTIONS [Selected or created by the player, with the proviso that the number of Assets must be the same as the number of Affliction. I have chosen those which are suggested for Magicians and which seem to make sense for this character. I have also decided to interpret his below average intelligence as ignorance, due to a lack of formal education, and allowed him to have a fair amount of "street smarts."] Assets: Good Bargainer, Intimidating, Shrewd, Sneaky, Wily. Afflictions: Bad Reputation, Bad Throwing Arm, Creepy Presence, Horrible Body Odor, No Head For Reading/Writing. [That last one is just listed as "No Head For . . ." with the comment "a common field of knowledge." I figure my character is barely literate, if at all, which will it make it difficult for him to use books of magic!]

MAGICIAN STARTING SPELLS [I am allowed to select two Level Zero spells and two Level One spells]: Zero: Beguile Incantation, Nightvision Incantation. One: Cause Fear Incantation, Conjure Familiar Pact. [This last one is interesting. I can assume that the Pact was made at the time of the loss of the finger, as this is a one time, permanent spell. First of all let's roll a twenty-sided die to see if I get a Common Familiar or something special, which happens on a roll of 20 only. I get a 6, so it's Common. This takes the form of a small, ordinary animal, so let's make it a tiny, nonpoisonous snake, which can be concealed wrapped around the character's arm when wearing long sleeves. The Familiar has its own characteristics. It shares the Level and Perversity of the character.]

Disposition: Curious
Charisma: 10 Intelligence: 10 Wisdom: 10
Strength: 10 Dexterity: 15 Constitution: 10
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 1d6 (+1 Hit Point per master's level) [I got a 1, increased to 2, so it's not hard to kill]
Attacks: 1
Special Abilities: Speak, Share Senses, Bolster Master's Hit Points, Carry Spell, Occult Knowledge [these are all explained in detail later]

WEALTH: Poor [No need to go in extreme detail. Suffice to say that the character will tend to avoid Ceremonies and Talismans, which cost money. Gaining wealth will be one of his goals.]

EQUIPMENT [Based on the list of typical magician equipment, minus those too expensive (talisman) or inappropriate (book)]:

1 set of ordinary clothes, a haversack, ceremonial clothes, 1 Magical Implement (dagger), 1 Power Object (contract), a dried root or herb, salt, candles, chalk, a skin of wine.

SPEED: 9 [the default speed for new characters; average; slower if wearing heavy clothing.]

ARMOR CLASS: Zero. [Increase to one for heavy clothing.]

NAME: Nine-finger Jack. [Not even he knows his birth name. Finding out about his parents might be another goal, in addition to gaining power and wickedness for its own sake.]
Well it looked like fun and I'm in full-on procrastination mode at the moment so I had a go at making up a character.

Basic abilities -

CHARISMA: 6 (low)

INTELLIGENCE: 11 (slightly above average)

WISDOM: 12 (ditto)

STRENGTH: 9 (average)

DEXTERITY: 16 (very high) - later adjusted to 18 (extremely high)

CONSTITUTION: 8 (below average)

PERVERSITY: 13 (above the norm but not evil)

I chose to be a Demon Hunter based on high dexterity and non-evil.

CHARACTER INSPIRATION: Mina Harker from Dracula.


BACKGROUND: An heiress of a noble family, her world was shattered when the man she was engaged to marry was murdered by then turned into a vampyre, who then hunted her for her blood. In self defence she was forced to slay her former fiancee but was disinherited and outcast by her family as a result. Since then she has trained obsessively as a hunter of vampyres and other demons (high dexterity). Despite her professed hatred of the breed her experience with her fiancee, whose vampyric advances she almost gave in to (low charisma), have left her also strangely, almost fatalistically, drawn and sometimes even attracted to vampyres (above average perversity) which is a source of emotional conflict.

PERVERSITY: As above, basicallly Good.

PERSONALITY: Melancholy, reserved, anxious, conflicted.

APPEARANCE: Tallish, well-built, reddish hair kept on the short side, wears functional clothing.



SPECIAL ABILITIES: determined by Demon Hunter Class - Danger Bonus, Demonology, Feat of Strength or Dexterity, Resist Preternatural Effects, Tracking.

WEAKNESSES: Nemesis, Obsession.

HIT POINTS: from 1-8 for the Class - 2 (so disappointingly easy to kill but I see that can improve as she gains levels)


ASSETS AND AFFLICTIONS: Assets - Beautiful, Expert Equestrian, Gift For Languages (both these last two I figure come from the noble upbringing), Naturally Skeptical. Afflictions - Bad Reputation, Melancholy, Traumatic Memory, Unlucky at Love.

WEALTH: moderate - though no longer an heiress she is secretly being financially aided by a sympathetic wealthy uncle and has savings enough to cover most expenses.

EQUIPMENT: 2 weapons - silver dagger and stake & mallet of ash wood, a haversack, 1 set of somber clothes, a book on Demonology, a meal of dried bread and meat, a lantern with oil, a vial of holy water.

SPEED: default 9.

ARMOR CLASS: 1 for wearing thick clothing.

NAME: Lila Davenport.

Thanks for the links. I got no work done at all this morning!
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Since this system still fascinates me, I have joined a play-by-post forum where I have been allowed to create a game.

Play@YSDC • View forum - Ghastly Affair

A few players have created characters:

NAME Duncan Budi Rachman.









Born in Java to a British sailor and a Javanese mother. His Father, after contracting a mysterious fever whilst docked in java, was deemed too unwell and too high a risk to the rest of the ship to return on board. He was left in the care of the local medicine man and his daughter. He eventually recovered and after a lengthy courtship married the daughter and a son was born, Duncan.

Duncan spent much of his youth around the port of Jakarta with his Father and it soon became apparent that he had a gift for languages and often helped in translating between the Captains and sailors of the many nationalities that visited the port.

Unfortunately his mixed nationality made him a target for other youths and he found himself in many fights. After one particularly vicious fight, which resulted in upper portion of his left ear being bitten off, his father persuaded one of the local Silat guru’s to train Duncan. Eventually the other youths found Duncan was no longer such an easy target and the fights became fewer.

When not with his Farther Duncan spent his time with his Grandfather wandering the surrounding forest learning of herbs and roots and their uses as well as the animal and spirits that dwelt there. As the years passed his Grandfather was pleased to see that like himself Duncan was in tune with the ebb and flow of the spirit of the land and was able to tap into its power. Duncan began to spend all his time with his Grandfather learning more that just medicine and was Initiated into Javanese Magic and its mysteries.

1784 brought an influenza outbreak to Jakarta. Duncan’s Mother and farther both died in the initial outbreak and eventually so did his Grandfather. Before his Grandfathers death he told Duncan he had taught him as much as he could of the mysteries, but that he had not reached his full potential. Being a child of two worlds, both East and West, he needed to unite the two to ascend further.

As his final gift to Duncan his Grandfather drew him a magical sigil and told him to take the ash from his funeral pyre and mix it with the earth of Java and combine that with ink and have the sigil tattooed on his back, that way where he was he would have a connection to him and the spirits of Java.
He left Java shortly after and travelled to Europe, passing through Spain and France till he eventually arrived in London.

PERSONALITY: Calm and Intense.

APPEARANCE: 5‘ 8“ with a slight build, a fairly dark complexion with black hair. Missing upper left ear. Heavily tattooed.

MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTERISTIC: Very dark eyes verging on black. Most of left ear is missing after being bitten of in a fight.

SPECIAL ABILITIES Esoteric Knowledge (+1), Use Incantation, Perform Ceremony,
Create Talismans, Employ Pact

WEAKNESSES: (Magical Implement) Kris Dagger,
(Power Object) Extensive back tattoo, the ink imbued with ash from the cremated bones of his Grandfather.



ASSETS Gift for languages

AFFLICTIONS Creepy Presence


WEALTH: 900p




NAME: Elizabeth Carrow

CHARACTER INSPIRATION: Lucy Westenra and any other innocent young lady who happens to become the focus of any Gothic villain.

CHARACTER CLASS: True innocent

ABILITY ADJUSTMENT: Charisma +2 (True Innocents tend to be attractive and sweet-natured.)
CHA: 11 (9+2) , INT: 8 , WIS: 8 , STR: 6 , DEX: 7, CON: 9


PERSONALITY: Virtuous and kind to all creatures

APPEARANCE: Willowy favours the colour blue, almost white blonde curls

MOST MEMORABLE FEATURE: A disarming smile of pure innocense

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Resist Evil Spirits, Grace of Heaven, Inspiration of the Virtuous (+1), Redemption, Faith (+1)

WEAKNESSES: Fainting, The Misfortunes of Virtue

ASSET: Good singing voice

AFFLICTION: Bad judge of character



WEALTH: Middle class poor



EQUIPMENT: 1 set of modest clothing, predominantly blue with a lace trimmed bonnet of fashionable style. A painted locket bearing the likeness of her departed mother. A delicate silver ring, a family heirloom. A small volume of the testaments given to her by her father for her tenth birthday. A strange poetic letter from an undeclared admirer, filled with immoral double entendres, which she keeps in a small drawer beside her bed. It is a guilty secret that she keeps hidden.

Alas when Elizabeth’s parents died in a most unfortunate accident, she found herself in reduced circumstances forced to live on the charity of an aunt.
A true innocent in the ways of the world, her sudden initiation to the ways of the city have left her in a state of confusion and despair. However her singing has brought her much attention, not all of it good, and her aunt assures her will benefit her greatly in her search for a good marriage. Unfortunately curiosity is a curse that she tries her best to control, but sometimes it gets the better of her. For example the strange poetic letter she keeps hidden from her Aunt, she has no idea who the author is, and knows she should throw the vile thing on the fire, but, there is something delicious in the idea of a secret admirer...

I hope she is right.

CHARACTER INSPIRATION: Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Dr. Herbert West


NAME: Dr. Henry North, Thirteenth Earl of Dunwich

BACKGROUND: Dr. Henry North is a relatively young, upper class man from East Anglia. Everyone he has ever loved has died, and this has fueled his obsession with conquering death. If he can keep people alive, or perhaps even bring back the deceased, he need never fear losing someone again. While he was studying medicine at Oxford, his parents were both stricken by a sudden illness. He inherited his father's lands, which included a dark and gloomy castle, as well as his title (Earl) and vast wealth. However, none of that makes up for his losses. The castle, though filled with servants, feels empty without his family. After he completed his studies and earned his degree, he used his inheritance to set up a laboratory in a castle tower, where he conducts his experiments, primarily aimed at postponing and reversing death.

Henry fell in love with the beautiful Julia Markham, the daughter of a nobleman whose lands border his own. She shared his fascination for science and wished to learn more, though no university would admit women. Henry taught her everything he knew, and she proved an excellent student, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. She also assisted in his experiments. As they worked and studied together, she developed affection for him, and she readily accepted when he proposed marriage. Unfortunately, she died in childbirth with their infant son, who also died in the process. Henry was stricken with grief, and he remained secluded in his castle, working feverishly on his experiments, which also helped him to take his mind off of his loss even as he desperately sought some way to reverse it. He remained undisturbed by the outside world until one night he received a strange visitor...


PERSONALITY: Henry is generally melancholy, often wallowing alone in grief and self-pity. He is reluctant to get attached to other people for fear that he will lose them, but sometimes he cannot help himself. He is a rational man who believes that everything has a scientific explanation. While many people think him accursed, he is convinced that there is no such thing...mostly.

APPEARANCE AND MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTERISTIC: Henry is tall and gaunt. He normally wears expensive clothing, usually black. The first thing people notice about him are his eyes, which have a haunted look about them. Staring into them is like staring into the Abyss.







SPECIAL ABILITIES: Academic Credentials, Mad Inventions, Monstrous Servants, Laboratory, Scientific Knowledge(+1)

WEAKNESSES: Attracts Angry Mobs, Incurable Madness (Bipolar disorder)



ASSETS: Fast Learner, Gift for Languages, Good Manners, Mechanical Genius, Profession (Doctor), Wealthy Family

AFFLICTIONS: Bad Reputation, Bad Throwing Arm, Emotional, Melancholy, Traumatic Memory (wife's death in childbirth), Unlucky at Love

WEALTH: 900p

EQUIPMENT CARRIED: pistol, laboratory clothes, rugged clothes, obscure medical text, journal, pen and ink, diploma from Oxford University (Doctor of Medicine), locket with a portrait of Julia, black doctor's bag with medicine, medical equipment, and surgical tools, vials with various chemicals, cane, Mad Invention (Close Wounds)

The Mad Invention is called the Cauterizer. It resembles a short rod that contains two compartments, each containing a chemical. When a switch is flicked on it, the barrier separating the compartments is moved aside, allowing them to mix. The resulting chemical reaction generates heat, and when the device is applied to a person's wounds, it will cauterize them. It has a rubber grip, allowing the user to hold it without it being too hot. It might be painful for the patient, but it is usually applied to someone who is already unconscious. The chemicals must be refilled once they are depleted to use it again.



I have begun the adventure thus:

Chapter the First: A Strange Invitation; Or, The Mysterious Coachman

1788. A clear evening in late summer. The year as a whole has been unusually dry. England is at peace, at least temporarily. Rumbles of revolution are stirring in France. Prime Minister William Pitt (sometimes called "the Younger," to distinguish him from his father, who bears the same name) and Parliament are wrangling over the threat of Russian expansion, as the Tsar seems destined to triumph in his war with the Sultan, threatening the balance of power. A prison colony has been established in the fabled continent of Australia. The Daily Universal Register has changed its name to The Times. The Marylebone Cricket Club has published the revised Laws of Cricket. There are rumors that King George III is not entirely in his right mind, although he remains beloved by his subjects, who admire him as a good family man, devoted to his wife and children. But you have other concerns . . .

A coach driven by four black horses makes it way through the tangled streets of London. Often its way is blocked by other vehicles and by those on foot. Many of the narrow paths seem impassible, yet somehow the driver manages to arrive at his various destinations. He is a short, stocky, muscular man, with a dark complexion, a mass of tangled black hair, and an imposing mustache. His command of the horses is masterly. By hook or by crook he has found his way to you, whether your lodgings are known to all or kept private. When he finds you, he hands you a note written in a fine hand on vellum.

The person who bears this message is Davros, my trusted servant. Although you may not be familiar with my name, I assure you that it will be of great benefit to us both if you would be so kind as to attend upon me Thursday night. If you agree, Davros will return soon after sunset on that evening and convey you to my estate. Since my home is located at some distance from London and is rather isolated, I will welcome you as my guest for as many days as our business requires. With all due modesty, I can state that those who reside at Harcourt House enjoy comfortable accommodations and many forms of pleasant amusement. I remain,

Yr Obt Srv,

Wm Harcourt, Esq

Thursday night? That is only two days away; barely enough time to arrange your affairs, should you choose to accept this strange invitation. You will need to decide what to carry with you. Will there be others traveling with you?

"Will you come?" Davros speaks slowly, with a heavy middle European accent.

How will you answer him?

If anyone would care to join in, you are welcome.

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