Note that this file is incomplete and is likely to remain so permanently.
It is, nonetheless, useable.
A Night in the Lonesome October is © The Amber Corporation.
No challenge to the rights of the Amber Corporation is intended.
This file is intended as a fan work, such as the Amber Corporation has ignored in the past, and will be removed on request.
Amber Diceless Roleplaying is © Phage Press.
No challenge to the rights of Phage Press intended.
This file is intended as a fan work, such as Phage has encouraged in the past, and will be removed on request.
“A Night in the Lonesome October” is an extension for the DRPG system published by “Phage Press”. You need its parent game, “Amber” to play.
“A Night in the Lonesome October” is a novel by Roger Zelazny. Its main characters are the animal familiars of a group of magicians who have gathered for a ritualised battle, which they call the Game. The future of the human race hinges on which side is victorious, but the story has comedic and burlesque sections, to counterpoint the horror. This book contains material to help you roleplay the Game, either with the original characters, or with ones you’ve created.
In this book, “Player” refers to the character and “player” refers to the human acting that character. “The Game” refers to the magical battle in which the characters participate, while “the game” refers to what the players are doing.
“Those of us who remain will gather atop the hill at midnight. We will bring kindling and we will co-operate in the building of a big fire. It will serve as illumination, and into it will be cast all the bones, herbs, and other ingredients we have been preparing all month to give ourselves an edge and to confound our enemies…Forces will wrestle within it…Then we will position ourselves in an arc before the thing our divinations have shown us to be the Gateway…The openers and their friends stand at one end of the arc, the closers at the other. All will have bought tools they intend to employ. Some of these are neutral, such as the ring, the pentacle, the icon, to take their character, — of opening, or closing — from the hands of those who wield them; others — the two wands, one for opening, one for closing — will naturally be held by those of these persuasions….The forces of the neutral objects will support the side for which they are employed, which makes the outcome sound like a simple mathematical affair. But it isn’t. The strength of the individual counts for much; and these affairs seem to generate a strange byplay as well, which contributes to the overall dispositions of power. And then there is experience. Theoretically, everything should be conducted at a metaphysical level, but this is seldom really the case…We tend to retain our positions in the arc once the ceremony has begun, and sometimes things happen to players during its course…Psychic attacks may be shot back and forth. Disasters may follow. Players may fall, or go mad, catch fire, be transformed….Eventually….the matter will be decided…
Bad things happen to the losers.” — Snuff
The Game ends in a ritualised battle, at midnight on Hallowe’en, when a Gateway, to the dimensions in which the Elder Gods are trapped, appears in some once-hallowed place. Around this site, for the previous month or more, two teams of magicians have been preparing for the Balefire. One team desires to free the ancient ones, the other to keep them shut away. The Closers have won every Game in human memory. The players contest with each other for magical resources, the most keenly sought being the Game Tools, five mystic items that can decide the way the battle ends.
Each magician is based on a character from a classic horror film or story. Each has a familiar, an animal with whom they can talk at certain times, and who does the legwork for them during the Game. The story is told as the diary entries of Snuff, a watchdog, who serves a magician named Jack. In October, the roleplaying game, you play these animal companions.
Character creation in October is very similar to that found in the Amber system. Players familiar with Amber should check this section while creating characters anyway, since it contains some modifications.
Creating Players and Companions, An Overview.
Step One: Think about it.
The first things you should decide are; the species of Companion you want to play; the type of Player you want your companion to have; the orientation of your characters, that is, if you want to Open or Close.
Step Two: Buy Attributes
Step Three: Buy Powers, Character Types and Templates
The powers available to the Game’s Players are universal, so your character gets them automatically. Divination, summoning. and balefire coercion, for example, are all free of Character Creation cost. The powers that individualise your Player or Companion from the normal are paid for at this stage, either individually, or as part of a “kit”. Kits are a little like “character classes” in other games, so that, for example, if you wish to play a mummy, you should purchase that kit and tinker with it.
Templates are descriptions of companion species. Each includes notes about the psychology, physiology and mystical powers of that species. Guidelines are also given for constructing your own powers, kits and templates.
Step Four: Bid For Game Tools
Your bid for a game tool, like your bid for an attribute rank, is secret in October. This is to prevent characters discovering the orientation of the highest bidders. The highest bidder from each team gets the Wand for their orientation, then the neutral objects, of which there are usually three, are distributed. Characters whose bids are too low to capture a Tool have their points returned.
Step Five: Buy Extras
In this section, you purchase artefacts, creatures and allies using Creation points or Foreknowledge points. Items bought using Creation points are part of your personal legend, and if lost, can be replaced almost instantly. Jack’s knife, for example, is paid for with Creation points, since it is part of his personal legend. Items bought with Foreknowledge that are lost, broken or otherwise destroyed are not replaced. Jack’s ogres are bought with Foreknowledge..
Step Six: Balance The Points:
Tally up the costs, determine your Stuff totals, take Contributions and select your Curse.
Step Seven: Take the Freebies.
Finalise your character’s looks, background, personality and skills.
[B:] Character Creation
Why October Attributes are Auction-Free.
The Game Tools are auctioned with blind, single bids.
Characters in October are ranked much like in Amber although their basal level of skill is far lower. “Undead” rank, which is free for all characters, represents the level of attribute found in a vampire still learning their trade, or a human with specialist training. It is 15 points above “General” rank, which is 25 points above “Feeble” rank. These ranks represent the average human, and a human with a debilitating medical condition. In “Amber” terms,. “Undead” is between “Chaos” and “Human” ranks.
It’s possible, in “October” to trade down less than a complete rank. A character wishing to be partway between “Undead” and “General” for example, may trade down 3 points, which is recorded on their character sheet as a negative number.
In “October”, Psyche is used to:
|coerce the Fire, spirits and minions. Undead Psyche allows average humans to be hypnotised for a few moments, if eye contact with them is made, and the character can speak their instructions to the victim in an uninterrupted and unhurried manner. Those with lower Psyche than average, such as the drunk, terrified or insane, can be hypnotised to perform more intricate tasks.|
|resist mind-altering magic. The higher a character’s Psyche, the faster they throw off mind-altering charms, and the more capable they are of acting while suffering the effects of poisons and drugs.|
|divine accurately. The rates given for divinations in the magic section do not alter with Psyche, but the accuracy of the information gained is enhanced by the character’s greater mystical perceptiveness and improved spellcasting technique.|
|throw raw mystical energy at opponents. After the Death of The Moon, sufficient magical energy is present to allow duels with mystical energy. The higher one’s psyche, the more energy one can scrounge from one’s surroundings.|
|understand the theory behind mystical events. Psyche represents the ability to understand esoteric symbols, such as signs, portents, visions and magical places.|
|detect magical wards and barriers.|
|read body language. The character may sometimes get tips about a character’s mental state, degree of exhaustion, cleverly-disguised wounds or verbal trickery through reading their body language.|
In “October” Warfare replaces both the Strength and Warfare Attributes from the “Amber” game. It represents:
|How well one fights, either with a weapon or without. Characters with weapons are given a bonus to this Attribute.|
|How strong one is. “Undead” ranked characters are about as strong as three normal humans.|
|How competently one deploys one’s minions. This determines how much difficulty your minions cause your opponents.|
|How well one understands the use of terrain in warfare. This includes how secure your home is from attack and burglary.|
Forewarning is the attribute that represents knowing about the Gateway’s general position far enough in advance to be able to make preparations. Jack’s ogres are represented by Forewarning, as is Owen’s oak. Forewarned characters have a battery of resources and contingency plans that they slowly expend as the game progresses.
|Your background material to be given preference to that of other characters. For example, if the Game is being played in a small English village and two characters want to live in the vicarage, the one with the highest Forewarning does so.|
|You to begin the game with additional minions. Forewarning is used to purchase resources before the Game begins. It is quadrupled, then treated as Preparedness, save that it requires no time to spend. Preparedness is described in the “Powers” section.|
|You to begin the game with rumours about the other Players, or the Game site.|
As in “Amber” Endurance is the statistic that comes into play during any lengthy battle of Warfare or Psyche. It represents:
|How energetic a character is.|
|How well they withstand fatigue.|
|How well they function while in pain.|
|How susceptible they are to drunkenness and poisoning. How quickly these states wear off.|
|How much sleep they can avoid while retaining their vigour.|
Allies are friendly non-player characters who aid you during the Game.
Common Ally: Common allies are normal people in positions of little power, or normal animals. Bubo is a Common Ally. 1 point.
Uncommon Ally: An uncommon ally has power sufficient to interfere with the schemes of one or more players. Larry Talbot is an Uncommon Ally, as is the Great Detective. 2 points.
Devoted Colleague: A Devoted Colleague is a player on the character’s own side that wishes them well, and is willing to take risks on their behalf. 4 points.
Congenial Enemy: A Congenial Enemy is a member of the opposing side in the Game, who, for whatever reason, is willing to aid the player character. Congenial Enemies will take serious risks for the character, and will try to spare their lives at the Balefire, if that does not seriously interfere with their team’s effort. 6 points.
Within the context of the game, a Devoted Colleague or Congenial Enemy need not know your orientation. They wish you well, and act to aid you, regardless of which side you are on.
This is the same as in “Amber”.
Again, just like “Amber”.
Each character in “October” must take a curse, which represents some supernatural flaw that their opponents can use against them. The more likely the curse to be revealed, and the more serious it’s effects, the greater number of creation points the character gets in exchange. Additional curses may be taken as Contributions, although there is still a maximum of 20 points of contributions per character. Suggested Curses are given later.
Appearance: You should decide how old your character is, how they look and if they habitually carry any props that aren’t Items. Remember that characters in October must make some effort to fit in with the surrounding population and usually age just like other people.
Skills: Skills in October are far more limited than in Amber, since many of the characters are mortals. Choose the profession in which your character made a living before discovering the Game, then choose what hobbies they have pursued during their life. The skills associated with the character’s profession, or hobbies pursued avidly, are those in which the character is most firmly grounded. Characters receive for free the skills common to members of their class at the time the game takes place. For example, a landed gent knows the etiquette of shooting parties, a priestess knows the correct ritual prayers and a street waif knows the layout of back alleys in the city.
Closer: A Player who wishes to prevent the return of the Elder Gods to Earth. The players have won every Game held, although sometimes only just.
Companion: Each Player, or group of Players living together, has an animal who spies for them and trades gossip with the other familiars. These are called “companions”. Snuff mentions that he likes being a watchdog more than he liked being what he was before he was summoned. Cheeter describes how he was “drafted”. Companions are, therefore, constructed in some way by their Masters.
Dreamlands: A magical realm entered by falling asleep, derived from the works of H. P. Lovecraft. A supplement on the Dreamlands is available from “Chaosium” Publishing.
Elder Gods: The Elder Gods are borrowed from the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other authors of the Weird, or Pulp Horror tradition. They rest, awaiting a time when the Stars are Right and they can again cavort across the world. In Lovecraft’s writing, the Elder Gods are vast alien intelligences, whose release will be an apocalyptic end for humanity. In the works of August Derleth and his imitators, most notably Lumley, Lovecraft’s pantheon is divided into warring factions, with the Great Old Ones being trapped on Earth and their allies the Outer Gods being trapped in space. They were imprisoned by the Elder Gods after some sort of rebellion or civil war. Its clear from the names chanted at various points that the Openers serve the Lovecraftian Great Old Ones and Outer Gods, but don’t believe that they will destroy humanity on their emergence.
Game: The combined activities of the Players while working toward or athwart the Opening.
Game Tools: In Snuff’s story there are five game tools. Each orientation has a Wand, and there are neutral tools, “such as” the ring, pentacle bowl and Alhazred icon, which take their orientation from their possessor. Snuff’s “such as” implies that there may be other neutral tools, of which these three are only examples.
Gateway: The Gateway is the focus of the mystical battle that concludes the Game. It serves as a passage which will release the Elder Gods, if forced open.
Lonesome October, The: Refers to a line in a poem by Poe. The Opening is only attempted in some few of those Octobers when the full moon rises on Hallowe’en.
Opener: One who wishes to release the Elder Gods.
Orientation: Whether one wishes to release the Elder Gods, or oppose those who do.
Player: One of those able to participate in the Game, to determine if there will be an Opening.
The Preparedness Attribute represents the preparations the characters have made for Banefire Night. Preparedness rises as, while the month progresses, the players seek out components and craft spells in their laboratories. Sometimes players divert some of their Preparedness into projects other than the game’s end, spending these points on magical effects, summoned minions, or new allies.
A player spending all of their time on the Game will have their preparedness rise by one point per day. It’s sometimes possible to raise your preparedness by more than one, since Advancement points in October are given in Preparedness. It’s also possible to steal the preparedness points of others. When Morris and McCabb’s herbs are stolen, they lose preparedness, since they can’t use them as they wished. When the Count takes Owen’s sickle, he gains preparedness, since he can incorporate it as a component into his preparations.
As a rule of thumb, stolen preparedness is worth half as much to the thief as the original owner, unless the stolen ingredient is equally applicable to both schools of magic. A magician who specialised in creating animated puppets would have less use for a witch’s cauldron than a druid, for example. Use of stolen preparedness consumes it just like any other source of ingredients. Alternatively, if the Preparedness has already been crafted into a device, the thief can use the powers of that device, instead of using it as ingredients for some other working.
Each point of preparedness usually represents a discrete ingredient. Players should provide the GM with accurate lists of what they have in their inventories. Characters lacking an appropriate component cannot cast a spell that requires it, until the deficiency is made good. For example, you can’t make a talking skull without first acquiring a skull. Some items are worth many points of preparedness, and these are the finest prizes in the odd treasure hunt that the Players engage in.
Some actions also net preparedness. The most obvious is Sacrifice, which makes the sacrificial blade an item charged with preparedness. Other players make excellent sacrifices, which is why murder is such a popular undercurrent to the Game. The Count, whose other preparations seem perfunctory at best, manages to murder three out of the five on his opposing team.
Preparedness is spent at the rate of one point per hour of game time, using the Creature and Artefact rules. For example, if a witch decides she wants to create a rag doll that creeps around and spies on her enemies, with the qualities; Animal Vitality; Mobility; Self Healing; Able to Speak in Tongues and Voices, it costs her seven points of preparedness and hours of work. The player then crosses seven appropriate items from their inventory. Since a character spending preparedness on another item isn’t conjuring tricks for the balefire, they do not accumulate preparedness while performing artifice. If the trinket they make is useful at the balefire, the gamesmaster may assign it a preparedness value.
Preparedness may be spent on divination, which is a two-step process. First the magician creates a medium through which they receive information, then they use that medium. For example, a druid may brew a batch of magical mead, which they drink to receive visions. The first half of this process can be performed at any time, and is usually paid for using Foreknowledge, however the magical power required to perform divinations only becomes available after the death of the moon. The cost of the medium varies, depending on precisely how it delivers information, but each question asked requires an hour and a point of preparedness, for a simple answer of the “Yes/No” variety. Some questions cannot be answered by diviners. Questions which a gamesmaster would prefer not to answer still cost a point of preparedness and an hour, but a quick thinking player should be allowed to ask a related question for free, so long as they do so immediately.
Spells in October are artefacts you use a single time. A spell costs half as much Preparedness as if it were an object with the same powers, except that no Preparedness is paid for Conferral. For example, if a warlock creates a cloak that turns him into a wolf whenever he wishes, that costs 11 Preparedness, but if he creates an ointment that turns him into a wolf only once, then he spends only 1 point and 1 hour, if he has the appropriate props. Spells wear off entirely at the gamesmaster’s discretion, but as a rule of thumb, weaker spells last longer than stronger ones.
The two major workings we see in the story are the Crystal Bell Effect and Jill’s warding spell. The Crystal Bell Effect is actually a set of spells nested together. Practically it is an impenetrable black barrier (4 points) that disguises the effects of a pair of attack spells, one of which moulds the weather (1 point) and makes it deadly (4 points). The other changes the way magic works in the area, dispelling Jack’s wards (which is 4 points, but overlaps with the 1 spent for weather control), for a total of 12 points, divided by two for spells. The spell cost the Reverend 6 points of Preparedness and six hours’ work. It lasts for an hour. Jill’s warding creates an invisible, impenetrable wall (4 points) that senses any who would attempt to cross through it, and sends their image to anyone who asks for it. (2 points). This costs her three points of preparedness and three hours, and lasts for an entire day.
Preparedness is usually spent on Stuff, which costs two points each. The boxes, bones and potions that go into the fire are essentially bundles of Stuff that assist one side against the other in the final battle. Making Banefire Stuff takes no added time, since that’s considered to be what the ingredients that make up raw preparedness have been refined for. Some players, for example the Count, choose to make their own luck, which is why his contribution to fuelling the fire was so small. Others can be cursed, as Nightwind and Quicklime do, using Bad Stuff. It’s not possible to tell if Nightwind’s feather was just the most convenient place to carry the spell component required, mummy dust, or whether it was an artefact designed to confer bad stuff for the entire month. Since it was intercepted, there is no way of telling what the spell’s duration might have been.
Creatures, Artefacts, Allies and Stuff bought with preparedness differ from those constructed with character generation points in that they are not replaced if lost. Jack, for example, cannot lose his knife. It is part of his personal legend, because he has paid for it with character creation points. His ogres, however, were paid for with Foreknowledge which is a type of Preparedness, so he’s able to loose them.
Rumours and Reputations
Certain Players have information about their rivals at the very beginning of the game. For example, both Quicklime and Nightwind seem to know who has the Wand for the opposing team, or at least, that Jack and Jill are of the orientation opposite theirs. Talbot, Rastov and The Great Detective, who might be a P.C., all seem to know the Count. Talbot also seems to know the Good Doctor. Quicklime also knows which side Snuff is on, signalling his orientation frantically in the hope of confirming the Myth of the Man With The Dog and The Knife.
Rumours: Your character can learn these pieces of information in two ways. The first is by spending 5 character creation points per rumour. Rumours bought this way tend to be more specific and accurate than other rumours, but may give only a tiny, but accurate, bit of information. They may describe other Players, important sites in the game area, interesting historical events or significant NPCs. The gamesmaster may limit the number of rumours that you can learn this way. The second way to hear rumours is to bid high in Foreknowledge, then request them.
Rumours requested in Foreknowledge indicate that your character has become aware of useful information at some time in the past when persuing interests that were not necessarily related to the Game. They represent a concerted effort to research a place, or if another character has also selected Rumours of Foreknowledge, some sort of confrontation. The gamesmaster should choose how intense that confrontation was, and allow the players to negotiate this piece of shared history. Each is likely to know a great deal about the other, although the information presented is incomplete, out of date, in some cases misleading. A large bundle of rumours about a subject is called a Reputation. Gamesmasters should supervise these negotiations, and make final decisions if they players cannot agree. For each rumour or reputation that you request, you lose 20 points from the battery of Preparedness with which you start the game.
Undeserved Reputations are false rumours that you have spread about yourself. Each costs 6 character creation points to put into place. By spending 30 points from your initial battery of preparedness, you represent having engineered an event in the past that has deceived another player as to your abilities. You go through the usual process of trading secrets, but, after having explained the nature of your ruse to the gamesmaster, you are allowed to slide a single false concept into your story.
Your Undeserved Reputation must be expressed in a single sentence. This concept may colour every other event you describe in your negotiations, if you wish. For example “I am a vampire” is a single, simple concept. You must describe to the gamesmaster how you foster this perception, so that they, using what they know of your rival’s abilities, can tell your victim if they see through your charade. You can not ever be sure that you have successfully deceived another player.
Fostered Reputations are accurate stories about yourself that you have deliberately leaked to the occult community, or that have developed as your fame has grown in those circles interested in esoteric. They may be incomplete, or over-simple, but they may not be entirely false. The obvious one in the story is “There’s a madman with a knife and a dog. He’s a closer and a killer and he never misses a balefire.” Small elements are added for each Player who gets the story. For example “He may be Cain, doomed to walk the Earth” or “He may serve a renegade Old One”. Some of these statements should be true. For example, the GM might trim out any of the facts in the original story and hand them out one at a time to the Players. Each Fostered Rumour costs 2 character creation points, or 10 points of Preparedness from your initial, Foreknowledge derived, pool. Jack may have paid multiple times for his reputation, since it contains many threatening and advantageous elements.
The Shapeshifting power is common in October. Its costs vary, the more expensive versions of this power generally including the abilities of the weaker version.
Partial Shapeshifting  The character has one alternative form, such as a wolf, or a demon.
Partial Shapeshifting  The character has several specified forms. The traditional Victorian vampire could become a bat, wolf and rat.
Limited Shapeshifting : Shift Facial Features. Your character can redistribute the mass within their body in a very limited way, changing their appearance within the broad parameters of your species. If placed under psychological stress, or rendered unconscious, you shift back to your natural form.
Involuntary Shapeshifter  Your character is probably unaware that they are a shapeshifter, since their power is under their subconscious control, acts only slowly and affects only invisible attributes. The character cannot, for example, change the colour of their hair, but, if anticipating trouble, they may add muscle density, although not size, and may develop enhanced senses.
Limited Shapeshifting  Shift Body Parts. Your character can manipulate the substance of their body to create adaptations, although as soon as your concentration ceases, your body reverts to its natural shape.
Incomplete Shapeshifting  Shapeshift Wounds: Your character can reknit bones and close flesh wounds, although you cannot replace missing body parts with this power during the length of a Game.
Incomplete Shapeshifting  Shapeshift Animal Form. Your character can take unrehearsed animal forms, although the skills required to use these novel arrangements of muscle are not gained using this power. For example, if you have never been a bird before, you are unlikely to be able to fly.
Characters may choose an alternative class of objects if they wish. One vampire found it particularly easy to be invited in due to her ability to mimic domestic furnishings.
Shape Shifting  Automatic Shapeshifting and Primal Form. Characters with these powers are similar to Amberites with the same skills.
Additional Shape Shifting  Shape Shift Aura. As per Amber, p. 55.
Power words cost two points each, as in “Amber”, but they are less effective in “October”.
“Magic Negation” for example, will not affect any working except if said in the presence of that working’s creator at the moment of its conclusion. For example, to disrupt the magic in Jill’s warding spell, a player would need to speak the Word during the final instants of her casting the spell. Once the magical effect is in place, it is impossible to dispel with so minor a working as a power word. Jack’s ogres, for example, would not be dispelled by the Word.
“Process Surge” is the most common power word. The Vicar uses it during the banefire ceremony.
Other effects are scaled down so that “Undead” rank substitutes for “Amber” rank and “General” rank for “Chaos” rank.
Sorcery and Conjuration
Spells of either of these types are paid for using preparedness. No character in “October” flings spells in the whimsical fashion Merlin displays in the “Amber” books.
Artefacts and Creatures
Artefacts and creatures in October can either be purchased with character creation points, in which case they are always with you, or with Preparedness, in which case they may be lost or destroyed. Qualities are the same as in Amber, save that the ranks mentioned in descriptions are scaled for October, with Undead replacing Amber and General replacing Chaos. Items Powers differ as follows from the Amber standards:
|Ranks are scaled to suit October.|
|Items in October may not travel Shadow.|
|Although items may Mold Shadow, they can only mould small amounts of it. “Small” in this case refers to as much as the Gamesmaster is willing to allow you to get away with, but line of sight, or that which is enclosed by the item, are both suggested.|
|Items may heal themselves, may shift shape, may contain the power words of their masters and may transfer their attributes to others.|
|Items can be purchased in groups using quantity multipliers.|
You can’t have one. Phhhhhhhhhhbt!
Characters in October are based on those in early horror films, especially those from the Hammer studio. This section presents character types from Hammer and later horror films, suggesting how they can be designed as player characters.. Some of the more unusual characters presented are based on the works of R. Chetwynd-Hayes, an English author committed to the ghost story.
Cult leaders are magicians who use other people to complete their workings. They develop “flocks” and sacred places which they use to commune with some higher power. They have some sort of contractual obligation to this Being, worshipping it and sacrificing to it in exchange for powers, or specific magical effects. A cult leader from film is Christopher Lee’s character from “To The Devil, A Daughter”.
For cult leaders, the charisma implied in a high Psyche is essential. They usually lack Warfare, having cult members to do the musclework for them, and are indifferent to Endurance. They have sound Foreknowledge, given them by their mystical patron.
Patrons have unpronounceable names, and use titles of the form “noun/adjective-place name”, such as “The Black Goat of The Woods” or “The Lurker in the Abyss”. For some reason, Patrons tend to eat their own priests. This may imply that the Patron is none-so-bright, that the priest has failed, or that Gods can get peckish, and will take what’s on offer after the big plan fails. Patrons have lesser beings serving them, which usually look like men in laytex suits, or extras from “Doctor Who”. Some of the nastiest servitors are invisible, can only be spotted by seeing their shadows cast on walls, or make your eyes go all out-of-focus and fuzzy. These horrors aside, Cult Leaders have their congregations to rely upon, and sometimes have acolytes who act as officers within the cult.
Cults almost always develop systems of mutual recognition, like the Masonic handshake. Cults enforce discipline with rewards, punishments and uniforms. Cult Leaders wear a lot of black. Bloodstains don’t show on black. When they speak about their faith Cultists are very earnest indeed. Cult Leaders tend to capitalise words unexpectedly. This implies that the word is Important and that if you were more Enlightened, you’d Know what it meant. Since you don’t Know, you are less Enlightened than Your Leader. This is fine with Players, especially when the Game is getting close to the Death of the Moon, and they are looking for the Gateway and the Tool-bearers.
Curses for cult leaders are a sort of badge of pride. The Servants of Gash-Ohmygosh, Fiddler on the Roof, are pained by atonal music. They see this as a mark of favour, something that puts them above the plebeian masses. Stigmata are popular with these fanatics, as are piercing, tattoos, brandings and other similarly-unfortunate things. Police officers are pleasantly surprised that cult leaders are so stupid when it comes to marking their minions, but it’s important to remember that the -other- great curse of the Chosen is that they feel they won’t be caught, or will be caught so that they can be Tested.
Cult leaders are often retired salesmen, or people who had a very boring job indeed which led to a moment of revelation. Anyone who has read a bit of Foucault (Madmen have access to a higher knowledge. Drop acid, whip and sodomise people to broaden your mind.) will also note that sociologists make excellent cult leaders also.
Residences for cult leaders are usually commodious, providing somewhere private to perform ceremonies.
The basic Cult Leader kit is free, but the character -must- purchase cult members, either as allies or minions, using Character creation points or foreknowledge.
Elementals are nature spirits. The best known pair are both water Elementals; the Swamp Thing and the Creature From the Black Lagoon. For reasons which are entirely unclear, elementals seem to want to have it off with human women. Some are environmentally conscious, but others couldn’t give a fig for the rest of the world, so long as you leave their swamp alone. In this sense Godzilla is also an Elemental.
Elementals’ powers vary with what they represent, but the Swamp Thing and The Creature From The Black Lagoon both have moderate Psyches, very high Warfares and high Endurances. They seem to lack all foreknowledge, but the Power that constructs them sometimes gives them a helpful nudge.
Elementals are private, although some have small groups of friends who are humans that are aligned to the same natural phenomenon that created the elemental. Elementals tend to be lucky, but are always ugly. Each has magical items that are parts of nature that have yet to be discovered by humanity. In the infamous “Vegetable Sex” issue, for example, Swampy and his human lover share an hallucinogenic gourd grown inside his body, which causes his lover to become pregnant.
The basic Elemental kit is free. Many elementals buy the power “Immune to effects of own element” for 17 points. Effectively this is, form an Amberite perspective:
Implant (odd body organs) 10 & Immunity to Firearms
(modified to similar types of damage from their own element) 2 &
Conferred Armour 5 = TOTAL 17
Ghosts are humans who have unfinished business on Earth, so they remain in insubstantial form after the death of their bodies. Few ghosts are able to manipulate surrounding objects, either those significant to them in life, or more generally, through a sort of telekinesis.
Ghosts have the power Bodiless Spirit. This allows them to pass through objects unobstructed. Similarly, ghosts remain dry in the rain, and their clothes are not ruffled by the breeze, even if they wish them to be. Ghosts cast no shadows. This power costs 20 points if your character can only manipulate objects bought through character creation or preparedness, 30 points if you can touch objects as if alive and 40 points if, poltergeist-like, you can touch objects within a few feet of you. Characters unable to manipulate objects cannot function properly as Players, as they cannot collect ingredients, so they should not be played as P.Cs.
Ghosts have a very high Psyches, but poor Warfare, Endurance and Foreknowledge. They are usually dependant on allies to fetch, carry and act as their hands. Their Stuff reflects whether they look as the did in life, or as they did just after their point of death. Some ghosts can shift into other shapes, of which the most popular is a great black dog. Items purchased by ghosts during character creation or through spending preparedness can be manipulated as though the ghost was solid. Ghosts may touch each other and may develop spells to make them briefly substantial.
Ghosts are fanatics, bonded to that special business that keeps them on the Earth. Some of them have no idea what their unfinished business is, but they subconsciously hope someone else will tell them. This is why ghosts are so fond of long soliloquies about their lives.
Ghosts look pale, and some look a little misty. After the Death of the Moon they become increasingly substantial, and at the Fire as completely solid. Many ghosts haven’t changed their clothes in years, so they are well out of fashion. Ghosts are the reason people say “I wouldn’t be seen dead in flares!”
Ghosts often find travel difficult. Many just happen to be in the area when a game crops up. Those that travel to games are often the ghosts of people who wandered in life, or who were killed or buried on a road, especially at cross-roads.
Ghula are Arabian spirits representing death by thirst. The rise from the dead to drink the blood of the living, and to eat their flesh. Usually they are female and beautiful. Poe, Lovecraft and authors following them used the term “ghoul” for a sort of bestial humanoid that ate corpses and lived in burrows under churchyards. In October, you may play either type. Arabic ghula are best seen in original Arabic works, or those with Arabic influence, such as Tanith Lee’s “Delirium’s Mistress” or Clark Ashton Smith’s “Zothique” stories. Poe’s ghouls are best read in his poem “The Bells” or in Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model”.
“Ghula” is a feminine term. A male ghula is called a “ghul”, from which Poe derives his term. In October ghula is used for the spirits of thirst, while ghoul is used for cannibal spirits. The two types have different appearances, but similar attributes and powers.
Ghula have poor Psyches, and usually have poor warfare, but they have enormous endurance. All Ghula have the power to change into the shape of a beautiful woman or handsome man. They gather into feasting parties, which the character may use as Allies. Their curses often require them to eat a certain person, such as their husband, or class of person, such as babies. Ghouls need to eat human flesh, but usually don’t care who used to own it. Ghouls have higher warfare than ghula.
Ghouls often have wonderful Items which they have gathered from the graves they have pillaged, or the dark pits into which their tunnels go. Some ghoul warrens contain tunnels that lead all the way to the Dreamlands.
Jolly undertakers are people who get to cart away magical components free of charge. They wear black suits. They have black cars. They own dark buildings with black drapes that everyone avoids. They wear gloves. In short, they act like C.I.A. operatives. They can go anywhere, and no-one wants to open the boxes they are carrying. Two Jolly Undertakers on film are Vincent Price and Peter Lorre’s characters in The Comedy of Terrors.
Undertakers have high Warfare from all of that fetching and carrying. Their Psyches tend to be firm in a sort of creepy, defensive way. They are indifferent to Endurance, and have good Foreknowledge. Once things actually start, they know where to get the choicest cuts and where the skeletons are buried.
Most undertakers have a host of employees, like gravediggers and mutes, and are on a nodding acquaintance with the priest and most of the Old Families in the district. They have good Stuff, and suffer only mild curses, most of which involve the dead. Undertakers tend to be male, and have hearses that are allowed to park anywhere.
Mad scientists are magicians whose dependence on props is almost total. Many are unaware that they are performing magic, believing instead that they have discovered a revolutionary principle of wide application. Mad scientists may belong to almost any school of magic, but rather than chanting and waving, they do their magic with beakers, electricity, copper wire and Tesla coils. Especially Tesla coils. Frankenstein is the archetypal Mad Scientist. His imitator Herbert West uses injections instead of electricity, which is a lot more convenient.
Scientists have low Psyche, being driven by madness, and are weedy men, with low Warfare. They have fits of unshakeable Endurance, developed through sleepless nights in their laboratories. They are usually tragic figures, lacking Stuff and their curses reflect fanaticism, such as the fear of death, or the need for adulation.
Mad Scientists almost always have an assistant who does the heavy lifting for them and a girlfriend who is trying to draw them out of themselves and distract them from their Great Work. These girlfriends always get it in the neck during the third act. Mad scientists are almost always men. Scientists tend to be independently wealthy, handsome, mysterious and have a preference for white lab coats.
Most scientists have a device that Moulds Shadow for them. Other magicians would call this a wand, but they call it something “scientific”. These wands have coils, springs, buttons and flashing lights. Many make odd noises reminiscent of those found on 1940s Hollywood soundstages. Some mad scientists carry loaded syringes, or little black bags with drugs in them. Sometimes these bags Mould Shadow, so that if they need a certain item, it happens to be inside. Mary Poppins has one of these, but hers is made of carpet.
The best mummy film for players of October is The Jewel of the Seven Stars, which is based on a book of similar name by Bram Stoker. Mummies come in many sorts, the most common being Egyptian royalty, but an Egyptian servant, or a Chinese mummy, might appear in an October game. Mummies are human bodies that have been dried out and left to await resurrection. Their sleep disturbed, they have rise to seek vengeance. A mummy may now be seeking something else, for example the treasures looted from their tomb, or a place to rest until the time of resurrections.
Mummies are terribly strong, and although they can be lumberingly slow they move quickly while “off screen”. Their Endurance is almost mechanical and some have tremendous foreknowledge, having learned of the Game in ancient times. Very few have the ability to shapeshift into a socially acceptable form, but many more can cast spells or own items that make them look human, at least for a time. Since they don’t need, or have, their internal organs, they are immune to most types of weapon damage, although fire is a particular danger.
Rippers are serial killers. Their inspiration comes from characters such as Jack the Ripper, The Actor from Theatre of Blood and Norman Bates from Psycho. These characters show the two basic types of Ripper, the Hunter and the Lurker. Jack goes out to cut people up, Norman stays home and waits for them to come to him, the Actor is a hybrid, who does a little of each.
Hunting Rippers usually kill in patterns. Sometimes their killings form circles when pinned on mapboards. Sometimes they kill after a regular period of time. Their victims usually resemble each other, and tend to represent someone of importance to the Ripper. Most Rippers are male, and their victims tend to be female, although these attributes are far from compulsory. Rippers of opposing sexes to their victims often mutilate their prey’s sexual organs. Hunters often extract pieces of their victims and return home with them.
Vincent Price’s characters in Theatre of Blood and Doctor Phibes are seeking revenge. They are pattern killers, but not truly Rippers, since they change their method of murder for each victim. The first uses famous Shakespearean murders, while Phibes uses the curses from Exodus. From the perspective of the game, these Pattern killers are also Rippers.
Lurking Rippers kill when a victim passing by them triggers their killing behaviour. For Norman, sexual attractiveness is his main trigger. Norman suffers a violent and not-entirely-realistic form of Multiple Personality Disorder, which is not usual amongst Lurkers. Lurkers tend to live in places where their triggers are likely to be pulled. Norman, for example, is in a place where he’s likely to occasionally encounter small groups of people on their own.
Lurkers redesign the magical environment of their lair through their activities. Norman, for example, preserves the mystical life of his mother, through his fascination with taxidermy, his filling his house with stuffed birds and regular infusions of blood. Other lurkers are attempting similar environmental alterations.
Hunting Rippers have a high Warfare and good Endurance, but tend to lack Preparedness. This is because the main components of their magical workings need be kept fresh, and they are itinerant, moving ahead of the law. Hunting Rippers tend to be solitary, lucky and suffer a curse that revolves around killing. Hunters often have a weapon as their item of choice, and have some training in tracking or stealth. Hunters tend to be large, strong, or agile, but lack distinguishing features that make them stand out in a crowd.
Lurkers may have whatever statistics they find convenient, but tend to have high Foreknowledge, since they have been at the same site for years, have collected knickknacks, sometimes for generations, and are skilled in tinkering with magical environments. They tend to have a site purchased as an item, for example:
Moulds Shadow: The walls muffle sound within entirely, even if the windows are open. 
Alternate Shaping (Clean and undisturbed): The house tidies itself up, rights furniture, unruffles fabric and soaks away bloodstains. 
Item Healing : The mansion repairs scraped and stained furniture, mends shattered windows and cracked mirrors. It also fixes chipped cutlery, polishes silverware and sharpens knives.
Rippers of both varieties tend to dress well, if conservatively, have money sufficient to interest the foolhardy and practice a school of magic related to their craft. Cannibalism, Vodun and Necromancy are common schools of magical initiation for Rippers, who are often doctors. They tend to prefer sacrificing those of the opposite sex and to divine using entrails.
Vampires as played in October tend to be based on The Vampyre, by John Poldori, stolen and published by Lord Byron. This mould of Vampire was later popularised by Bram Stoker, and was played most memorably by Christopher Lee. Very recently roleplaying has been going through an Anne Rice phase. Her vampires, from the perspective of October, are too human to be funny. If you don’t go about smashing mirrors, avoiding Italian restaurants and claiming to be Jewish when asked to churches, there’s not a lot of point, really. Players looking for literary vampires should seek out anything be R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro or S.P. Somotov. His child-vampire-rockstar, Timmy Valentine, is an inspiration.
Vampires have high Psyche and Warfare, but tend to lack Endurance, preferring to attack the sleeping or hypnotised. They may have lesser vampires as servants, although they sometimes have humans. Dracula, Chetwynd-Hayes points out, presumably cooked Harker’s breakfast himself, then did the washing up, leaving the reader with the image of the Lord of the Undead up to his elbows in Fairy Liquid. Most vampires have more pride. Vampires have no particular Stuff orientation.
Vampiric curses are many and varied, but tend to include anything that purifies. Sunlight, fire, the Cross, flowing water and disinfectant herbs can all harm vampires. They are forbidden to enter buildings into which they have not been invited, as the spirit of the house, the lar familiaris, keeps them out. They sleep in coffins lined with the earth of either of their grave or homeland.
Vampires may be male or female, but must be attractive. They seem younger after feeding. They dress well, and are finicky eaters, which is lucky, because getting bloodstains out of opera cloaks is a tricky thing. Most are shapeshifters, or can talk to animals. Doctor Dolittle may have been a vampire.
Vampires are not known for their props, but they have coffins with locks on the inside, and sometimes have bathrooms cabinets, without mirrors, filled with bottled suntan. They like sunglasses, even at night, and drive cars with roomy boots.
Werewolves are humans who turn into wolves, or, more recently, into hybrid things, part wolf, part man. Werewolves come in two main types, those that change due to a conjunction of heavenly objects, and those that change through the use of an unguent or wolfskin. Werewolf of London is the best film showing the first, The Company of Wolves the best showing the second.
Werewolves are reputed to have certain characteristics by which they may be spotted. They have second toes longer than the first on each foot. They are born feet first, or on Christmas day. If injured in one form, the injury carries to the other. They have red hair. Their eyebrows meet in the middle. They have sharp teeth, they have big eyes, the have long noses and the look convincing when dragged up as your grandmother.
Werewolves sometimes hunt in packs, either of human or natural wolves. They can use these groups as servants. All are, of course, Shapeshifters.
Modern attempts at reconstructing Pagan beliefs aside, witches from folklore have several essential properties. They tend to be women. They tend to meet, in groups called covens, at Esbats. They are cunning with herbs, have truck with demons, and can curse people. Most witches specialise in a single type of curse, for example, poor weather, using it in preference to their other workings. Some are dependant on a charm to work their magic, such as the vertebrae of a cat, or a strip of demonic flesh. Most peasants have some sort of charm to protect them from the witch herself, or her curses. These can be as simple as hand-signals, including crossing oneself, or as complicated as witch-bottles, charms buried under doorsteps to curse the witch if she entered the house.
The main power attributed to witches is flight, either on a broom or within a cauldron, although they are also associated with other magics of movement, including being able to sail in sieves. Witches seem particularly attracted to children, from whom they suck the breath, or eat. or imprison.
A witch character probably has a high Psyche, for projecting the evil eye with, and a high foreknowledge, since they tend to dwell in the same dark house in the forest year after year. Most have some sort of travel implement, such as a flying balm, broomstick or cauldron. They tend to be herbalists and favour curses. Their sacrifices are almost always children.
Curses are a weakness through which an enemy can cause your character harm. All characters must have at least one curse, for which they accrue no benefit, although extras may be taken, as if they were contributions. Taking a curse does not give your character the powers usually associated with those so cursed. For example, if you take the Vampiric curses, you don’t gain the vampiric abilities described above. Curses need not be supernatural, for example, loving a mortal who can be taken hostage is a “curse” under these rules. All curses and powers must come together into a single character concept. A Vampiric character should not, for example, choose not to take any of the weaknesses usually associated with Vampires, instead selecting those for Rippers, just to throw the other characters off. Gamesmasters should disallow combinations of powers, character types and curses that the player cannot construct a sensible rationale for.
Curses are incurable. A character with the Ripper curse “Dapper” simply -cannot- choose to dress less ostentatiously. A Mad Scientist whose girlfriend has been killed continues to waste time mooning over her, writing poetry and trying to find ways to bring her back to life. A ghoul who stenches of the grave might mask the smell with aftershave, but they would require so much that they’d choke those nearby with the zesty pong of their newly lacquered body. Curses are not easy points. They’re like a piece of fixed bad stuff that eventually will do you harm.
The following section provides a few curses, to get you started. You should consult with your gamesmaster about the game’s setting if you wish to develop others, to ensure that they can be incorporated.
Your character has received a special mark of favour from your god. This mark usually horrifies the uninitiated, and makes you resemble more closely the Divine. Scales, weird tattoos, full body baldness, odd eye colours and similar cosemtological challenges can be yours for just -5 points. Severe deformities, such as webbed fingers, hooves or horns give -10 points.
You crave power over others. You are addicted to petty acts of authority, such as getting the last word in conversations, comparing the amount of money that you have and denigrating other people’s sexual partners.
Uncompromising Demands (5)
Your God makes demands of you that sap your Preparedness and time. Usually these demands cost you about two points of preparedness per week, but the God may make other, annoying, requests.
Opposing Elements (varies):
You are horribly vulnerable to attacks by the element that opposes yours. What this element is may not initially be clear, however. An earth elemental might be harmed by seawater, for example. A swamp elemental might be harmed by fires. The value of this curse is dependent on the severity of the damage you suffer from the opposing element.
Fine amour: (10)
Your character is pining for the love and acceptance of a certain young woman from the local village. You will do anything to have her, cannot get her out of your thoughts, and will take great risks to defend her from harm. The one thing you won’t do for her is abandon the Game, since you believe that if your side loses, she’s probably as good as dead anyway. Its likely that you collect mementoes of her passing, stand outside her house in the shadows, late at night, hoping to catch a glimpse of her and send her the occasional bouquet of wildflowers.
Sacred Site: (5)
If your home is destroyed, so is your elemental body. In time you might form a new one, based on the new environment in the area that is your home, but the time taken will allow the conclusion of the game in your absence. This is so cheap because it’s very difficult to destroy the habitat of most elementals. If your habitat is, like a village well, easily destroyed, then you gain 10 points for this curse.
Compulsory: Unfinished Business (10)
All ghosts have unfinished business that keeps them in the mortal realm. As soon as it is completed, they pass beyond the Veil of Death. That means that if another character can discover what their unfinished business is, and complete it for them, then the Ghost is removed from the Game.
Startles Animals (5)
Domestic animals hate you instinctively, although they do not attack you. They hiss, spit, snort and paw the earth when you pass them by. Companions will know that you are inhuman, but will not necessarily know that you are a ghost.
Lacks Reflection (5)
You are an disembodied soul, so the usual representations of the spirits of the living, the shadow and reflection, are missing in your case.
Your character must eat human flesh to survive. You may eat human food, and are not addicted to human flesh, but unless you eat it with approximately the regularity that humans eat meat, you will die of anaemia. Vegetarianism is not an option.
Stench of the grave (5)
Your character either stinks of death, or is heavily perfumed to disguise this aroma. It lingers on those things you touch, and those places you go.
Under moments of high excitement, you revert to your ghoulish form, even if you have covered it with illusion or shapeshifting. Ghuls look like emaciated corpses, while Ghouls are horrid manlike things with canid snouts, clawed hands and camel-like hooves.
Some unfortunate soul has come back looking for a prized possession that you stole before their internment. They can’t do you any real harm, but can frighten and startle you, distracting you from more important things.
The Inconsiderate Living (5)
Your laboratory is housed in the premises of your business, which means that people are continually coming and going, distracting you and poking their noses in. You also have to take time out of your preparations from the balefire to see to those local clients who are sufficiently important that a lackey can’t be sent for them.
You love the thrill of stealing things. You just can’t help yourself. You’d be ruined if anyone found out, and your premises ransacked by locals, destroying most of your preparations, but you just can’t help taking valuables that have been left unguarded.
Compulsory: Fanatical (5)
Your character is a monomaniac. There is One Thing important to your character and it overshadows every other thought an action. You will sacrifice anything for your work.
Gothic Romance (5)
Your character is deeply in love with a virtuous woman whose redeeming qualities might yet save your degenerate soul. Your courtship of her wastes time, and requires that you think up cunning ploys to divert her curiosity from your work.
At university you did something silly that can have repercussions in the modern day. Perhaps you stole a foot from your college mortuary? Perhaps you fathered a distant, bastard child? There is something in your past that would make your allies desert you if they discovered it.
Your character is particularly susceptible to injury, due to their brittle construction. Fragile characters should avoid combat at all costs.
Your mummy is a lumbering figure which can move only at a very slow walk.
In a past life you were worshipped as a God, and ruled a vast Empire. Now you have pathetic people asking you for your bus ticket, pushing in front of you in shopping queues and wheel-clamping your car. This has got to stop, and it’s going to stop now!
You are fascinated by patterns and are meticulous in all things. Your home looks sterile, since everything is precisely in its place. Sometimes, when you kill, you feel disappointed because things just didn’t go as planned, and you’re tempted to try it again from the top. You are annoyed by inefficiency.
Your character is both attractive and exuberant. This means that wherever you go, people notice the fine cut of your sleeves and the twinkle in your eye. This makes your job especially difficult.
Sometimes when you are out for a quick night’s slashing, you are called out to set a limb or deliver a baby. It’s really most inconvenient.
Repulsed by purifying elements: (5 per element, sunlight COMPULSORY)
Vampires are corpses, and are repulsed by things that purify. This includes, but is not limited to, the cross, running water, sunlight and scented herbs.
Repulsed by Lars Familiaris (5)
Your character may not enter a building unless they are asked inside. Usually this restriction is only upon homes, but in some cases may also include public spaces.
Burned by silver: (10)
Your character is burned by the touch of silver. If you transfer the negative effects of silver to another substance
Repulsed by charms or herbs: (5)
Some lycanthropes can be chased off with herbs. You are one of these.
Magic in October takes many forms, each of which is basically a way of channelling psychic energy toward a desired outcome. This chapter describes some of these types of magic, which for convenience are called “schools”. Each school has slight differences from its fellows, which make some workings less expensive to prepare. The descriptions given for the strengths and weaknesses of schools are deliberately vague, so that Gamesmasters can tailor them to their own campaigns. If they prefer a campaign in which characters are tightly constrained by their school, those workings in which a school is weak cost twice or three times the preparedness of those in which it is strong. Campaigns which are magic-rich make the Preparedness cost of favoured workings a fraction of the usual. These decisions can be combined, so that a gamesmater desiring a magic-rich, school-dependant campaign can declare, for example, that favoured workings cost 75% usual, general workings cost 150% usual and weak workings cost three times usual.
Dance: Dance is the school that creates magic through movements of the caster’s body. Adepts of dance are best able to affect themselves, or small objects that they can carry while dancing. Sometimes dancers have difficulties affecting things at a distance, although those things which they can circle while dancing can be affected in profound ways. Dancers have great difficulty in casting magic if injured, since their spellcasting requires both vigour and nobility.
Druidism: Druidism is a mixture of astrology and herbalism. Druids channel power between the Gods and humans. Often they are simply brokers, exchanging one sort of power for another. A druid sacrificing for good weather, for example, is just trading one type of energy for another type that they have greater use for. Druids have abilities that alter natural forces, coerce animals and aid in the governance of people. They are rarely able to control spirits from outside their pantheon, which makes them vulnerable in direct magical conflict.
Herbalism: Herbalism is one of the most ancient of the schools, and many of its tricks are well-understood even by those that do not follow it. Herbs can be used for healing, poisons and to produce altered states of perception. The masters of herbalism are able to create magical mannequins out of mandagora roots and have access to some herbs that create magical effects without preparation or spellcasting.
Necromancy: Necromancy is the art of the dead. Note that it is not the art of causing death. Its practitioners are able to raise the dead and use them as workers, messengers or spies. Necromancers sometimes have medical skills, but their magics of healing are often weak, as the forces of life resist their manipulations. Necromancers often have difficulty harming other magicians with their spells, since their opponents are rarely dead.
Riastarthaehood: The Riastarthae were a class of Celtic warriors rather like the Bersekers in Viking stories. The “warp-fevered” were, in fits of passion, shifted into distorted monsters capable of terrible and fantastic feats. Most of the powers of the riastarthae are simply shapeshifting and warfare, but they also have great skill in crafting magic that enhances the capabilities of their monstrous bodies. Their magic is intensely personal, but they usually form warrior-brotherhoods about themselves to give them minions for the game.
Smithying (Lapidary): Smiths are magical people, soaked in the power of iron. Some believe that iron is anti-magical, but they are mistaken. Iron’s so mystical that it scares of many types of spirit. The power of iron fills smiths with strength, allows them to heal and to wound. They have difficulty with spells that change their environment. For example, they are rarely able to produce good weather, although the most notable of the ancient smiths, the Cabeiri, were able to establish Hecate as Goddess of Magic through their craft.
Lapidary is an alternative school similar to herbalism, but with more expensive components. Its adepts derive their power from the properties of gemstones. Their spells have quite broad application, but the preparedness costs are often higher than usual for major workings, since they may need to ingest or crush gemstones.
Tantarism: Tantarism is Indian sex magic. For some reason this is quite a popular school with role-players. What can we say? A little wish-fulfilment never hurt anyone…
Tantarists believe that semen contains magical power. During climax, they press shut their urethra, so that their semen is instead forced into the bladder. Metaphysically they believe that this forces energy into the chakra in the base of their spine. Once this chakra is full, the energy, called rasa, migrates up through the other chakras, finally coming to rest in the chakra behind the forehead. This causes their eyes to have mesmeric qualities and their foreheads to bulge outwards with power. Tantarists are able to ignore reality with their magic, but cannot manipulate the mundane very well. If you are transcending the material with magic, you can’t use that magic to do things like clean your house. Divination is made especially tricky, because the spirits you hang out with don’t care about blobs of matter, only forces. “Where did that car go?” makes no sense to them at all.
In the west, spirits such as the Empusae and Succubi also drained life and mystical power out of men through sex.
Tarot: Cartomancers are great diviners, but the rest of their magical talents are pathetic. The good part about being a cartomancer is that you can usually up sticks and run before the Great and Powerful Minions of your rivals come to crush you flat. Some few cartomancers aren’t nearly so good at divination, but can call up minions out of their decks, carrying around portable copies of the Grim Reaper. The problem they have is that they need to use their cards in series. You can’t call the Empress before the Magician, or the Warrior of Eight Wands before the Merchant of Three. The player should keep a deck divided into major arcana and suits and can only use a spell associated with the meaning of or images upon the lowest card they have not played in any suit.
Vintering Vinters are the descendants of the Baccahe, the magi of Dionysus. They’re a tad broader in their abilities nowadays, but they are essentially still a specialised subgroup within the Herbalist tradition. Vinters are excellent brewers of potions, but have great difficulty with spells that cannot be invested into digestible liquids. A vinter can’t make you an acid that’ll cut through metal bars, although they can do a nice lemon vinaigrette, or bake a cake with a file in it. They do a fine molotov cocktail, but they can’t make you a potion that’ll allow you to torch things with your eyeballs. That’s the great curse and advantage of Vinters, what they do doesn’t look magical. A male witch out of a bit of crumpet may need to lug a carrot and a strangled mouse with an oddly carved candle and even then he might need the hair of the lady he’s after. A vinter just carries a little bit of liquid in his hip flask that he slips into her brandy.
VodunVodun is imitating gods so that you can nick their powers. The business with the dolls is a sort of reversal of that idea. The doll imitates the victim, so you can do the victim over by hurting the doll. A practitioner of Vodun should choose which spirits they can mimic and what these spirits do. Their preparedness is spent on the creation of costumes, make-up and props for their impersonations, as well as small bribes to keep the original being looking the other way while you fool about with cosmic principles in their name. Cosmic principles are really quite thick things, which is why practitioners of Vodun have to be unlucky forging the name of their deity in the cosmic chequebook to be caught.
Gamesmasters should remember that gods may be willing to let devoted worshippers fiddle with their toys, but dilettantes swanning around with a wardrobe containing the entire pantheon of Mali are likely to be squashed flat by some aggrieved minor god. This limitation balances up adepts of vodun with other schools, as they can’t impersonate beings who are competent in every field.
WeirdScience: Magic through toys! Batman is a Weird Scientist. These adepts can’t do magic without some sort of prop, regardless of how much preparedness they have. They are incredibly inflexible in their workings, because they are convinced that if they want to heal a broken arm with their Polygonical Etheric Energy Generator they need whatever they were using to power it last time. A witch wanting to set a bone who can’t find bonewart grabs some other heal-all, shrugs and gets on with things. Not so a mad scientist.
That being said, Weird Scientists are usually incredibly good at one very limited working. They may be masters of Teleportation, for example, doing it with barely a thought and very little preparation, but have a terrible time with other workings.
Some mad scientists are more “generalised” in their approach. These are the fellows with the really wild hair and the Alien Incursion Deflection Device made of an apple core, four bits of string and a piece of el dente gnocci wrapped in tinfoil and attached to a coat-hanger that’s been used as a television aerial. They have the opposite benefits to their colleagues. They aren’t good at anything in particular, but they rack up Preparedness, because they can use common objects in place of those which have the rest of the Players hunting over hill and dale.
While Baron Cadmius the Vampyre is off seeking the fourth vertebra of a hanged man, Doctor Rudolphus is ordering out for fried chicken. As Cadmius ferrets about the cross-roads, and goes scrumping in unhallowed ground, Rudolphus is polishing off his coleslaw and complimentary cheesecake. While Cadmius is making an exploratory dig, Rudolphus is thinking “Hrrrrm, I’m sure I can do something interesting with that wishbone.”. Cadmius’s spell may be more powerful, but in the time he’s taken to prepare it, Rudolphus has found an interesting shaped rock, a garden gnome, a bag of curtain rings and a rusty penny, all of which he can do other little bits of magic with.
Familiars are part of a Player’s personal legend, so they are usually bought using character creation points. The basic familiar costs 1 point, although they can cost far more. Gamesmasters may, at their discretion, allow Familiars to be paid for with Preparedness derived from Foreknowledge, explaining them as being “draftees” like Cheeter, who can be removed from the game via a relatively simple process devised when constructing the character’s background.
The 1 point familiar package gives your character the following:
|The natural abilities of an animal of that type|
|The ability to talk to people for one hour each night.|
|The ability to calculate, if your human is not the calculator in your pair.|
Familiars are constructed using the same rules found in the Creatures and Artefacts section of the Amber rulebook, save that their powers are scaled to suit this setting. Where the text reads “Amber” read as “Undead”, when it reads “Chaos” read as “General” and when it reads “Human” read as Feeble. Minions cannot conjure, use trumps, or shadow travel, save possibly to the dreamlands. Those that cast spells draw from their master’s Preparedness pool. As part of the personal legend of their master, their reputations can include their familiars. Rumours known by one partner are usually known by the other, unless the Gamesmaster is running the characters as if they were at odds.
Gamesmasters wanting to develop greater differentiation in the abilities of familiars may allow them to use character creation points to bid for attributes. The familiars described in the later sections of this work do not use this system, but it is included for the convenience of those gamesmasters that wish to make interfamiliar violence a regular, rather than an occasional, feature of the Game.
Optional Familiar Attributes System:
Familiars start with all attributes at human rank. They may raise an attributes by moving points from one to another, so that they still sum to zero, or may increase the size of their attribute pool by drawing extra points out of the player’s pool. It is not possible for a familiar to give points back to their player’s pool of character creation points. Even if the familiar’s pool is negative when summed, the magician may not increase their attributes by purchasing a weak familiar.
This scheme tends to keep the magicians the dominant partners in the relationships with their familiars. It also leaves them substantially weaker than humans in combat, as human can boost their warfare score by using tools.
[B:] Species Templates
The game tools are artefacts of great power which influence the outcome of the battle on the balefire night. They have other functions, although these might be are not clearly described. Tools are auctioned by the gamesmaster at the beginning of the game. Although Snuff knows that the Tools are very important, and although he mentions that they are capable of doing nasty things to owners who misuse them, he never gives any detail, and the side with the most Tools looses.
Suggested game effects for the Tools follow. Your character may be unaware of some or all of these qualities.
|Each tool acts as a focus for the Psyche during the Balefire. When calculating the Balefire totals of the two teams, a Tool’s holder is considered to have a Psyche one and-one-half times their actual score.|
|The holders of the two wands perish more rarely than other players, even if their side loses. This is the equivalent of three points of Good Stuff, directed solely at the preservation of the Player’s life.|
|Each tool can be used to work magic during the Game. It does this by feeding on the magical energies gathering to assist the magician’s side on the final night and therefore leaves the user vulnerable to ill-fortune. In mechanical terms, the magician develops a point of bad stuff for every three points of preparedness drawn out of the game tool. The gamesmaster should give this Bad Stuff concrete form, and, in this case only, by defeating the Bad Stuff’s form, which is always a difficult process, it can be permanently overcome.|
|Each tool has a “theme” or feeling. Your gamesmaster will choose themes that best fit his campaign, or will use those that follow in the Gamesmaster’s Section. Each tool can be used at the balefire to emphasise workings that parallel its theme. Although it is usual for characters to know the theme of their Tool, Gamesmasters may forces them to discern it during play, or may give them the option of purchasing it instead, through Preparedness of Foreknowledge.|
Characters can develop minions, lesser beings that serve their will, in three ways. Minions can be purchased with character creation points. Minions can be created magically through expending Preparedness. Minions can be found in play.
Minions are constructed using the same rules found in the Creatures and Artefacts section of the Amber rulebook, save that their powers are scaled to suit this setting. Where the text reads “Amber” read as “Undead”, when it reads “Chaos” read as “General” and when it reads “Human” read as Feeble. Minions cannot conjure, use trumps, or shadow travel, save possibly to the dreamlands.
[B:] How to play
The most important question you have to ask your gamesmaster when designing your character is how they are going to have you play your pair. In some campaigns the player controls both halves of the pair, while in others they control only the animal or only the human, In others they control only the animal, save for at the balefire, when they control both members of the pair.
Even if you are playing both halves of your pair, your Preparedness will suffer if your human is the active partner in your relationship. The game is, for the most part, played through the interaction of familiars. That means that, since you probably have only a small amount of time you want to dedicate to character design, you should concentrate on the design of the non-human half of your pair.
Characters in “A Night in The Lonesome October” are not, when first developed, as fully fleshed as those of the “Amber” game. They fit into simple stereotypes which can be used as crutches around which to build a character. Although this makes character easy to design, it can make them difficult to play, since they have few distinguishing characteristics that give a gamesmaster plot hooks. It’s important to give characters depth within their role. Depth of character is best developed through goal setting, creating a vivid personality for the character and the development of distinguishing minutiae.
The novel “A Night in the Lonesome October” is part puzzle, part horror comedy. This book can’t teach you to be funny, but here are some pointers.
|Use the horrible to fuel the comedic. The tension you create while preparing a horrid scene released as humour by having an unexpected outcome..|
|Use the comedic to lower other players’ defences, so that you can slug them with the horrible.|
|The unusual lifestyles of the Players can lead to situational comedy. There are unique and finicky problems with turning into a wolf by moonlight, drinking blood out of beer cars and finding a place to park your hearse.|
|Confuse the comic and the horrible. An enemy being crushed by a cartoonish hundred tonne weight is funny, but at the same time, it’s horrible. Sometimes it’s interesting to give the other players a bundle of emotional tension, and a stimulus that they can’t process into either a laugh or a shiver.|
|There is a style of burlesque comedy that revels in the profane, in which something is funny because it is unthinkable in any other context.|
The best game that expressed this idea is the now long out of print “Creature Feature” for the “Chill” game by Pacesetter. In one game mastered, by the author, the players laughed along while their characters tortured, raped, massacred and brutalised their way through a village. Only one, who was training as a clinical psychologist, understood what the point of the game was. It was a limit experience, forcing the player to question why they enjoyed playing games in which their characters do depraved things. In terms of dungeon crawlers, burlesque games ask “Why is it fun to play a kleptomaniacal serial killer?”
In burlesque “October” games, the humour is used as a goad, to see how far the players are willing to go, and why. The clinical psychologist played a vampire child who tortured to death her schoolteachers with historically-accurate Inquisitional devices. She couldn’t look the author in the face for about a month, because she knew I’d seen her laughing fit to burst while her character forced a man to dance around a pole to which the lower end of his small intestine had been nailed. All players should be aware that their characters may have burlesque elements, although gamesmasters should give warning to their players if they intend to dwell graphically on grisly themes.
In this style of game, the gamesmaster rewards the player with comedy for doing things unthinkable in any other context to see how far they are willing to take the joke, and where, if ever, they, playing their character, draw the line.
On the fifteenth day of October, many players go looking for last-minute items and take their last chance to unwind before the big event. On the Seventeeth the Moon dies. On the Twenty-second, Cheeter shows that diviners are available to detect Orientations. The Game ends on the First of November.
Honesty, Secrecy & Bluff:
The Familiars in the Game seem tightly bound by a code of conduct, which they breach only with great care. Snuff, for example, does not directly lie to any of the other Familiars until asked about Larry Talbot. Lying is most effective if your victim is cowed by a reputation as an honest dealer.
Characters avoid lying by phrasing answers to deceive, or by allowing their rivals to continue under mistaken impressions. They also limit the number of questions they must answer, through a strict adherence to an answer-for-answer formula. Its use helps ensure that each player hits their own comfort margin at about the same time.
In October it is very important for characters to play by what the other characters consider to be the rules of the Game. Players that are erratic disrupt the planning of others and may be killed, even by those on the same side. Sometimes the best use for an erratic ally is as a Sacrifice whose Preparedness can then be plundered.
Politeness and Ethics:
There may be mystical reasons why the familiars stick to a rigid code of politeness. Nightwind mentions he may be unable to give away information as it may transgress his “prohibitions”. What these prohibitions are, and if they are magical or social, is unclear. Snuff’s comment that home invasion lays one open to immediate reprisal indicates that the customs of the Game are codified to such a degree that all Players are expected to know them and may pay with their lives for their breach. It may be that the powers that oversee the game prohibit or restrict murder, since Snuff’s comment implies that murdering Bubo when he wasn’t in Snuff’s house would -not- have been acceptable.
It is unclear which parts of the Rules are made up by the participants as they go along, or which are honoured in the breach. Snuff’s statement that since Bubo came to him, Snuff could dictate the terms of their exchange may not be a rule at all, merely a piece of excellent opportunism. The Vicar accuses the Count and Jack of making up Rules as they go along when they propose that a sacrifice has a right to attempt escape. In either case the Closers might well have been telling the truth. Knowing the loopholes of the rules may be of great benefit to a Player, and Closers, who tend to survive more often than Openers, might have better information than their rivals. Tricking another player into breaking the Rules may be a common gambit.
Murdering Familiars and Players:
The rules of the Game seem to include an enforcement mechanism that prohibits murder before the Death of the Moon, or simply makes it difficult. Snuff is the first character we see to threaten murder, when he catches Bubo inside Jack’s and his house. He claims that intrusion lays one open to reprisal, presumably referring to penalties for violence that do not apply in their situation. Owen tries to poison Snuff, although it is unclear if the drugs involved were designed to be fatal or merely incapacitating. MacCab tries to drown Graymalk, but may be under the impression that Jill has intruded into his residence, placing him outside the prohibition. Nightwind carries Quicklime out over the Thames, but may not have been attempting to kill him, merely waste his time and frighten him. Vicar Roberts then tries to nail several familiars with his crossbow. None of these attempts or ruses ends with the death of a familiar. It is possible that familiars, like many player characters, have charmed lives.
The powers that have devised the Game may forbid murder, but Snuff does mention that if a Player dies before the Moon they change the geometry of the Game. Quicklime’s actions in regard to Graymalk’s attempted drowning may indicate that all Players suffer if one breaks the Rules. He clearly knows that Gray is his enemy, since he curses her house, yet acts to save her anyway, since he thinks the timing is wrong.
In comparison to attacking familiars, murder of Players is brutal and efficient.
Players like to give the impression that they know more about the current Game, and Play in general, then their listener. An example of this is when Snuff mentions the Things in the Mirror and at Graymalk’s question asks “Don’t you have any?”
Signalling is the practice of dropping deniable hints of one’s Orientation. Snuff does this in a subtle way, by showing Graymalk the Slitherers and telling her that they are sticky. Later, and more directly, he tells her that this is not his first Game. Quicklime is even more direct in his signalling. Unprompted he tells Snuff that he has played before, then discusses the Ruination of Hali, a mystical event which is considered good by Closers. Quicklime may know the rumour of the Man with the Dog, or he may just be lucky. His master seems to know Jill’s orientation.
Games of October are usually a hybrid of Throne War scenarios and campaigns. Like a Throne War, October games usually involve the characters operating individually or in small groups, in an effort to do harm to the other player characters. Unlike Throne Wars, which are usually played in a single session, October games are campaign length. Your Player Character, frankly, needs to kill the others, before they kill them.
[B: Character Quiz]
Character quizzes in October serve the same function as they do in the Amber game. For the convenience of the reader, many of the questions from the Amber rules are reprinted here, along with fresh questions suited for the October game.
|What’s your basic plan for the Game? For the Balefire?|
|What image do you present to the locals during the game? Has this any advantages or disadvantages?|
|Why is your character of their orientation? Would they change?|
|How did your character first learn of the Game?|
|Why are you choosing to play?|
|What would make you withdraw from the Game?|
|How does your character travel, by preference? Do they have a conveyance of which they are particularly proud?|
|How vehement is your character in their opposition to the other team? How much are they willing to sacrifice to win? How great is the harm they are willing to cause for the greater goal they pursue?|
|Does your character have a distinguishing habit, such as cracking their knuckles or smoking a meerschaum pipe?|
|What are your character’s flaws? What do you as the player dislike about your character? What do you as the familiar dislike about your Player?|
|How did your character first meet their familiar?|
|What role do you feel the Elder Gods play in the Universe? What role do you feel they should play?|
|How prone are you to violence outside the strict requirements of component collection? How jaded are you to the suffering of others?|
|What’s your residence like? Do you have wards in place? What do they do?|
|How do you feel the character could improve their life?|
|Have you any servants? Describe them. Are you willing to compromise your goals for their safety?|
|Does your character collect things? Do they have a momento which they prize? Describe how these items grew to be so valuable to the character.|
|What will you do if your team loses, yet you survive? Do you feel you’d play again?|
|What emotions can you express in public?|
|How do your minions appear?|
|Have you played before? What happened last Game? What mistakes did you make? Are you likely to repeat some of them? Which are they? What cautionary experiences are you keeping at the forefront of your mind?|
|Describe your character’s speech. Is your diction clear? Have you an accent? Have you a distinctive pattern of curses, or a word you use for repeatedly, but only for emphasis?|
[A:] Gamesmaster’s Section
[B:] Developing Kits
Every player eventually wants to design a kit. This should be encouraged, so long as the player makes quite clear what the abilities and limitations of their new kit are. Players love their characters and sometimes rankle at limitations placed on them by gamesmasters. It is important to come to an agreement with the player early in the game so that they don‘t make too deep an emotional investment in the character before you demand changes.
Rules of thumb:
|Kits should be derived from literature or film. This prevents problems of definition. If, for example, a player says “I’d like to play this new group I’ve designed. They can become invisible.” it is very easy for the GM and the player later to disagree as to whether they leave footprints in the dust, can be seen in mirrors, or cast shadows. Kits that are not clearly defined tend to inflate as the character is played.|
|Even if a player has just invented a kit, the characters in the Game may well know all about the character’s weaknesses. If you invent a mystical race, expect the sorcerers in the setting to know just as much about it as they do about vampires, ghouls and werewolves.|
|Kits should not be a grab-bag of interesting powers. The abilities and weakness of the character must revolve around a theme.|
|The character must have weaknesses. There’s a lot of fun to be had leaving a bloody swathe through your foes the first time you play. The next time, when everyone is playing the same kit, it becomes stale. Gamesmasters being devious creatures who verge on evil, if you design a kit with only one weakness, they will alarm the other characters with the Achilles Gambit. “This guy Achilles has just come into town with a bad attitude and he can kill all of you without breaking a sweat. You’ve heard of him before. He’s famous, and the only thing that can kill him is a hit to his ankle.” Sensible Players will then swiftly murder your character after the Death of the Moon.|
[B:] Designing Schools
Every School has the same basic features.
All schools contain some method of determining information supernaturally.
Fuller details of the mechanics of divination are given in a later section. Some examples of divinationary practices are:
Astrology (heavenly bodies)
Casting Lots (thrown objects, or objects selected randomly)
Hepatoscopy (reading the liver of sacrificed animals)
Oneiromancy (interpreting dreams)
Necromancy (conversing with the dead)
Rhabdomancy (using a divining rod)
Alectryomancy (using roosters to peck grains off lettered titles)
Axinomancy (by placing a semiprecious stone on the head of a heated axe and watching it move.)
Belomancy (by reading the label on the arrow out of a group which flies furthest when fired.)
Bibliomancy (by opening the Bible randomly and following the advice of the first passage read.)
Botanomancy (by leaves, either by writing on the leaves and following the advice of the sentences not blown away, or by the cracking sound they make when crushed in the hands or thrown in a fire.)
Cystallomancy (by observing transparent stones, such as globes or crystals)
Divination By Cup (by floating things, such as tea leaves, in water.)
Empyromancy (by watching things heated on a fire. Eggs, flour, incense and shoulder blades were common.)
Extispicy (by inspecting entrails. The individual who did this in the Roman state was called a Haruspex)
Geomancy (by throwing earth and observing the patterns in which it falls, or by observing points on the Earth.)
Gyromancy (by walking in a circle until one collapses from dizziness.)
Omens (by reading signs sent by higher powers)
Oracle (by asking someone wiser, literally by listening to inspired speech or the voice of a divine being.)
Palmistry (by reading hands. This is not very suitable for finding the Game locus.)
Pyromancy (by watching fires)
Xylomancy (by wood, such as twigs.)
Preparedness spent in divination is usually poured into the preparation of the required tools, or represents time wasted by the diviner staring for hours at some mystically significant object.
Each school contains at least one method of creating minions.
Since there are an infinite variety of minion types, there is an equally large number of ways to acquire minions. These range from the esoteric, such as animating the dead, to the simple, such as being able to turn lead to gold and use the money to hire sneak-thieves. The weaknesses of each minion often reflect those of their maker. Some schools have such a broad class of created minion, for example “animated toys” that they seem to have multiple types of minion.
Each school has some method of affecting the environment.
All schools have some ability to fling spells. These may work on a limited type of target, or may have tightly constrained effects. For example, a druid may not be able to affect iron objects with his magic, while a smith may be unable to affect weather.
All schools contain the ability to weave defensive magic.
In October pure willpower, represented by Psyche, grants some resistance against magical attack. By concentrating the character can attempt to damage the structure which holds together an incoming spell, mitigating its effect. Usually this effort is unsuccessful, so most magicians carry prestructured defensive workings. These workings are usually designed in one of three ways.
|They may assist the magician’s mind to infiltrate the incoming spell, so that it can be distorted. This type of spell is risky, as there are some spells that cannot be distorted. A magician’s school might be weak in the style of magic they are attempting to alter. In these cases the offensive spell often strikes the defender with its force undiminished.|
|They can act directly to distort the incoming spell. Some spells are designed to warp an incoming spell in a certain way, regardless of what the spell is. The most common distortion of this type is manumission, which attempts to drain the magical force out of the spell before it is released. General distortions are a blunt instrument, but are less finicky than the other types of defensive spells available. Since they are targeted at “magic” they are more difficult to construct than spells with more easily representable effects. Finding a component to represent “fire” is simple compared to finding one to represent “all forms of stored magical energy”. If you have found one, you may have other uses for it than this, many of them quite intriguing. These factors are reflected in a higher preparedness cost for general distortive workings.|
|The can mitigate the effects of the spell. Instead of attacking the spell’s “battery” or “software” the magician can counter its effects directly. A spell that flings a knife at your throat can be countered by a working that turns blades into doves, for example.|
Each school contains a technique for creating a Structure of Power.
The “shape” of the structure of power varies from school to school, which is why Preparedness stolen from someone within your own school is more useful to you than that from an outsider.
Each school’s effects should generally be explicable within the Laws of Magic.
The Laws of Magic are basic principles that underlie most of the world’s occult traditions. The two most important are the laws of Similarity and Contagion.
The law of Similarity states that two things that appear similar are the same thing. This means that effects that the first undergoes are reflected in the second. The classic example of this is the voodoo doll, which is attacked to bring injury to the person it mimics. Many herbs are attributed healing properties due to some similarity of a portion of the plant to a human organ. Components used in spells often are similar to the object to be affected.
The law of Contagion states that once two things have been together, they are always together. In this case, the small part of the thing that is being used as a spell component allows the caster to influence the larger thing of which it, mystically, remains a part. This is why voodoo dolls are made using the hair of the victim, or their sweat, or their nail clippings. Reading a person’s past by handling their jewellery also operates under this law. Spells targeted at places usually involve Contagious use of some part of the fabric of that place, hence the Players’ prohibition of competitors entering their homes.
An important subclass of the law of Contagion is the law of Names. It states that if you know the name of a thing, you have power over it. In October names may be a necessary component to workings, but they are rarely, of themselves, sufficient to make any working complete. Attempts to weaken workings using the law of Names lead to the Player practice of adopting titles.
“If neither Talbot nor the vicar were technically involved, I’d a good candidate for the centre. And if only Larry were involved it still held.” – Snuff
According to Snuff most calculators use maps. From a Gamesmaster’s point of view this is a horrible way of operating, since it means the characters can spend ten minutes in their study with a roadmap and a ruler to discover the centre. We need to make this business a little more complicated….
The Game draws the Players into a rough circle about the focus, but the predictive value of this circle is poor. None of them seem able to use the circle to extrapolate where a missing player lives, and even with all of the relevant sites, they are unable to determine the centre quickly. This is best explained if the circle is formed by an interplay of competing forces which find a balance to create the final placements of the Players’ dwellings. In this model, the forces are inertia, repulsion, geomancy and convenience.
Inertia: Imagine that the Gateway is formed by a pouring of mystical energy out of the rest of the world into the area of the game. This pouring forms a vortex, like water down a plughole, and this vortex creates a magical drag that pulls the spirits of the Players to and, at the climax of the Game, the spirits of the losers out of, the Gateway. As the players are drawn toward the Gate, they create a metaphysical drag. The more psychically-powerful Players create the greatest drag, the least powerful Players bring drawn closest to the Gateway’s manifestation point. The pity is that the Players have no initial idea which of their number are powerful, so they have no idea which is the closest to the site.
Repulsion: The Players repel each other in a mystical fashion, so that they spread around the locus in a circle, being as distant from each other as they are able. The more powerful players have more space to themselves on this imaginary ring, having shunted the other players away from them. As with inertial forces, however, the players are not entirely clear on who is most affected by this factor, so it makes the predictive value of the ring weaker.
Geomancy: Geomancy refers to the way in which magical energy is affected by landmarks.
Certain places make magic more liquid, forcing it to flow away faster. Roads, especially ancient tracks walked by mystical people like the Romans and the Giants, or those divided into a cross, channel away magical force in most cases. Sometimes, quite rarely, force slides into a cross-roads from all directions at one, pooling in the middle, but this is uncommon. Rivers likewise pump magic away, as do railways, if they run parallel to the mystical flow.
Other features act as pooling places or dams for mystical force, most notably the Gateway itself. Places that have been consecrated usually pool force. Conversely, priests tend to prefer to consecrate places that already act as a focus for mystical experiences. Mountains, especially those containing magical minerals, the high tide line, railway tracks perpendicular to the local flow of magical energy and certain types of architecture are all very influential culverts of magical energy, although other, smaller places and features can be equally influential in the limited space that makes up the Game area.
Convenience: Few magicians have the home they want. Most would like, on a supernatural and subconscious level, to have a house on precisely the point indicated by the other forces, but this is often impossible. The Count, for example, wants to have three dwellings each of which has quite specific structural components. He has to make do with the best three he can find. If a witch wants a thatched cottage, she’ll just need to take the one that best suits her plans. If you want to live in the vicarage and it is nowhere near where the forces would usually place you, then you are making conscious decisions which throw out the design. Fortunately for calculators your unnatural presence is relatively obvious in the last stages of the Game. Psychically it is rather like a great rock placed in the face of the oncoming tide of magical force. Characters whose convenience does not take them so far away from their natural place create smaller, but still noticeable warps in the current of magic and these can be factored into calculations.
The Powers of Divination:
The problem with Divination is that the more defined it is, the less useful the GM finds it. A divination that allows the GM to carefully ration out information, dropping clues when a spur is needed, keeping it back when things are travelling quickly or in the wrong direction, is a wonderful tool. The pity with this is that players are never satisfied with power with which they have no guidelines. Although none of the rules in October are binding, in the sense that you should do what feels right for you, the rules for divination are even less binding that usual.
|The player’s section on Preparedness gives the mechanics for spending points on divination.|
|Diviners may only use their fullest power after the Death of the Moon. Cheeter shows that he knows Snuff and Graymalk’s orientation on the twenty-second day of October.|
|Diviners can determine the Orientation of other Players, the holder of each Tool, and the identity of the master or familiar of a specified figure|
|Diviners cannot find the site of the Gateway without calculation, save in the last three days of October. This working costs an enormous amount of Preparedness.|
|Diviners can determine the Curses of other players, although this is difficult and the answers tend to be symbolic.|
|Diviners can determine if they are stronger in each of the four attributes than the target of their spell.|
|Snuff’s “calculations” to find a certain item and Larry’s “anticipations” are, practically speaking, a form of divination.|
[B:] The Theory of Campaign Design
Answer the following questions with the help of the following chapter?
Which, if any, genre conventions do you wish to use?
How large a role will the human P.Cs have
Does your campaign have a theme?
Which plotting style would you like to use?
Which era do you wish to set the Game in?
Where, geographically, do you wish to set the Game?
How many characters will you have?
Each campaign should have a genre. These allow players to work toward a cohesive story more easily than if events are occurring apparently at random give players guidelines on their style of play. These guidelines help to prevent clashes of assumptions between the player and the gamesmaster. If the gamesmaster so desires they can be made public before character creation, but even if kept secret the gamesmaster should have a firm idea of their theme and genre when approving player characters.
The most common genre for games of October is a mixture of light comedy and gentle Gothic horror. None of the violence in the novel is described in detail, save Snuff’s battle with the ogres. This reflects the movies from which the characters derive, in which a little blood, and in the later Hammer films small touches of nudity, were enough to shock or tantalise the audience. Gamesmasters wishing to reflect this style should follow Zelazny’s narrative lead. Sight is the key sense in movies, and obscuring the sight of terrible events leads to a lower censor’s classification, which makes them more likely to occur. We see this masterfully reflected by the Count’s murders, where we see a blackened skeleton, and hear bones crack while the dying Morris and McCab are obscured by the vampire’s living cloak.
Zelazny follows the “no blood” rule quite effectively. We find out about Constable Terence’s death well after it occurs, and see it only in Snuff’s reflections. Graymalk is nearly drowned, not stabbed or shot. No crossbow bolt ever strikes a leading character, and the one victim we see is described clinically. Snuff is not cut by the vivsectionist, perhaps the most horrible section of the novel. Vicar Roberts beats Snuff and Graymalk, he does not cut them. They, in turn, mangle his ear, but again there is no blood. Snuff kills the Things, but there is no blood. The sacrifice escapes. No Player blood is spilled, so far as we can see, at the Fire and the sacrifice is not stabbed.
Gamesmasters desiring a game that lacks the viciousness of a throne war should enforce the “no blood on screen” rule. Whether they inform the players that it is impossible to shed the blood of Players or Familiars is, of course, up to each gamesmaster to decide for themself. It can be interesting to watch players design characters for whom indirect, and therefore successful, methods of murder are more acceptable than the more sensible knife in the throat or bullet in the back.
Exceptions to the “no blood” rule are few and occur only when one of the heroes of the piece is in dire danger or when it is possible to fade immediately to another scene, placing the blood off-stage. Jack creates seas of blood in the vivsectionists, but we “see” none of it. Larry is shot in the head, but is quickly transformed by the hallucinogenic properties of the Fire into a bloodless shape.
The “no blood” rule does not inhibit those circumstances in which blood is a dramatic part of the story, appearing only in tiny quantities. Two tiny splotches on the white neck of a suddenly anaemic maiden are not necessarily a breach of the rule, although in many films the victim will wear a collar or scarf to prevent the audience seeing the punctures that they suspect are there. Blood used in mystical rituals, especially if it is poured into a bowl from an off-screen source, or that trickles moodily down an object does not breach the “no blood” rule.
Hammer Horror, which is an extension of the Gothic genre, has other unwritten rules beside those relating to violence and shedding blood. In Gothic horror, nature itself conspires against all participants. That means that in a Gothic game, the gamesmaster should feel free to play the weather as if it were an NPC bent on destroying the player characters. Gothic stories usually contain decrepit buildings, including, in October, the place of the Fire, which is usually the ruin of an older religious site. Gothic stories usually contain a romance with a heroine who has the power to redeem the menace. Zelazny does not emphasise this element, since his only female player, Jack’s romantic interest, is too competent to need saving from anybody. Hammer Gothic stories usually include the antagonist escaping so that it can appear in a sequel. Vicar Roberts, for example, does not die on-screen. Jack, like the hero or menace that he is, is free to come back in the next film. Indeed, as the Guy With The Dog, he is expected to turn up in every sequel.
Although the early Hammer films contain a great many useful images and plot ideas, the later films by Universal, especially those containing Vincent Price, often include a wonderfully light vein of comedy not found in the sterner Cushing and Lee movies. Any of Price’s serial killer films will do, although “Theatre of Blood” and “Doctor Phibes” are perhaps the most useful. Avoid anything with “Goldfoot” in the title unless you want to run a very silly game indeed.
The author’s RPG group has a game called “spot the burning timbers”. While viewing Price’s work, see how many films you can find that contain the burning-roof-falling-in special effect from “The Raven”. By tradition the first to call out “Pass the marshmallows” gets to break the seal on a waiting box of dark chocolates, preferably those with a brand name referring to dark enchantments.
One of the Gamesmaster’s most important decisions in designing and October campaign is how the Player-Familiar pairs will be played. In most games the Player is, for the most part, and NPC, to allow for plots in which the partners do not entirely trust each other, and to reflect Zelazny’s emphasis on the Familiar’s perceptions of the Game. Gamesmasters may, of course, vary this, giving a greater role to human characters in the Game’s progress. If they wish to do this, they should reduce the penalties to Preparedness for not spending time working on a Structure of Power. The plot should also include regular asides in which adventurous humans can accrue large chunks of preparedness.
Gamesmasters selecting a campaign in which the human character play a highly active role should remember that they have twice as many player characters to keep active. Campaigns of this type are easier to design if there are fewer players than in campaigns where most activity revolves around the Familiars.
Each campaign should have a theme, which is represented through recurring motifs. If the theme, for example, is “devotion” the Game will emphasise the relationship of each character to the Sacred. It will examine what is important to each character, why, and how they express these emotions. This makes the campaign simpler to plot, since whenever the Gamesmaster is at a loose end, they can tie things back into the theme.
Characters and Plotlines
Either design the P.Cs and then work the plot around them or design the plot loosely enough that you can slide a wide variety of P.Cs into the plot. The technique which leads to the most fulfilling play is
Decide on the Game site and era
Prepare an information sheet for each player
Allow the players to develop their characters
Write a campaign around the player characters
Unfortunately this is also the most time consuming method of writing a campaign.
The briefest, aside from making everything up as you go along, is to use pregenerated characters that the Gamesmaster assigns to the players. This method is best for those roleplaying for the first time, for games that are not being played seriously or for one-evening sessions such as conventions. A median between these two design styles is the commonest approach. In this third style, the Gamesmaster plots out their main themes and plotlines before character creation, then tailors them a little once the P.Cs are formed, vetoing those that are inappropriate for the campaign.
When selecting your campaign’s era, you need also select how seriously you wish to take the constraints of history. Zelazny cheerfully ignores many of the problems his players might face due to their historical placement, because his story begins with his characters already gathered in place. You, however, may wish to emphasise how alien a place history is.
The earlier the Game is set, the less ethnically-diverse the Playership. As transportation technology improves, characters from terrible distances may arrive to play. In some less cosmopolitan eras characters from far away will be mistrusted and may be harmed by the peasantry of an area once the oddness of the Game period begins.
Women may find it difficult to live alone in some historical periods. This may lead the Player to acquire a servant who pretends guardianship of her. Women travelling alone were uncommon in many historical periods, so a second, younger servant, who acts as bodyguard or husband might also prove useful. Jill avoids these difficulties by appearing far older than she truly is, which is sufficient in the Victorian period to avoid social scrutiny.
The British Isles are the most usual setting for October games. Most libraries have works on the geography, history and cultures of the British Isles, which makes game research simpler. Horror films, although they claim to be set in Germany or Austria, usually have very British heroes, although the villainous aristocrats are always foreigners, and Cockney peasantry.
Although you shouldn’t be too hung up on the geography of the Game site, you should have a firm idea of what is in the Game area. Maps of the game site, one for the players marked with “public” monuments and the other for you, onto which you can quickly scribble new sites that you develop.
Due to the low budgets of the Hammer films, the studio re-used sets and footage when they could. Gamesmasters may wish to reflect this by reusing the same “sets”. When unsure of where to place a scene, try putting it in one of the backdrops you’ve already described. This has the advantage of speeding up the game, as characters familiar with The Gloomy Castle on the Hill don’t need you to go over the details again.
Number of Characters
There are several factors you should consider when determining the size of your campaign. If you are allowing the human characters to play a large role in the story, you should have fewer players than if the action is restricted to familiars. If you have fewer N.P.Cs you have fewer options for controlling the plot that if their numbers equal the P.Cs. It’s also less work to have fewer characters.
[B:] The Practice of Campaign Design
Answer the questions in The Theory of Game Design then come back here.
So, now you know who, what, where and when. Time for a bit of “How?”
Grab yourself a biggish desk and some sheets of paper or filecards. Get a cheap planning calendar. Find some highlighters. Crack your fingers and twiddle then in an expressive fashion. Time to get started…
You want every single player getting at least one new hook every second day. Players will generate plot momentum once you begin, but the technique given here provides you with little pieces that can be used to accelerate the Game when it flags. We’ll work from the general to the specific in this example, but you can go the other way, if your thoughts run that way.
Create some arching plots. Arching plots are undercurrents in the Game that do not play themselves out in a single day. Mark each arching plot in on your calendar. Give each a different colour or number. If you are having difficulty thinking of plotlines, either think through the genre conventions of your setting or read the “story seeds” section that’s later in the book.
I’m designing a campaign called “Moonshine” that’s set in the 1920s just outside an unnamed American city with striking similarities to Chicago. I decide I want four P.Cs, but I’m going to design the setting first and let the players worry about working themselves into my campaign. I decide my theme will be “tribalism” and will emphasise how people form groups with their own codes of behaviour that exclude others.
Then I decide on my campaign arcs. This is a gangster film, so I need some of the staples:
1 A war for territory
2 A romantic interest that crosses the bounds of family.
3 A likeable character who gets killed before the final act.
4 A string of interesting speakeasy scenes.
5 A hard-boiled detective in a trenchcoat, possibly with a drinking problem, who is trying to earn his two bucks an hour.
6 A femme fatale
7 A nice girl, preferably from the rural United States, that the players can rescue.
Then I choose some arcs that are of interest only to players like:
8 A distiller working for one of the Families who is a priestess of Bacchus. Her liquor rots the brain and makes its drinkers into homicidal maniacs, the Maenaeds of Dionysus. The packs of Maenaeds will become larger and more dangerous as the game progresses.
9 One of the players wants a Valentine’s Day sort of massacre, so that he can channel the murdered off as sacrifices, for advancement in the Game.
10 There’s a lamia loose in the city. She’s working as a prostitute, feeding off the sexual energy of her victims. Perhaps she can be a second femme fatale? She’s killing rich men in the Family, and some of these are P.C minions. A character who can track her down and get her onside is well ahead of the Game.
If you are having trouble thinking of these, open a copy of “Brewer’s Phrase and Fable” at a random page and scan for ideas.
Work out where you want each arching thread to “peak” in your story, then work out how many scenes it will take you to set up the characters for the outcome you desire. Mark the date of conclusion and the dates for foundation scenes on your calendar.
For example, the maenad plotline will peak, I decide, with a rampaging mob slaughtering everyone in a speakeasy on the twenty-second of October. I need to set up a series of increasingly violent encounters between player characters and the bacchaens. I mark them in for the twentieth, sixteenth, twelfth, ninth and fourth on my calendar.
Then take your file cards or pages, number them 1 to 31, then fill them in as prompts. The idea is that once you have done all of your arcs, you should have an overview of the arching plots on the calendar, and a set of reminders for what it was you wanted to do each day on a stack of cards.
Now design a dozen brief scenarios. These plot developments should be things that the players can complete in a few hours of game time. Many of them probably involve collecting ingredients. These are really just a fall-back in case inspiration leaves you in the middle of the game. They also make for excellent excuses to force the player characters to interact.
It is vital that the gamesmaster provide igniters for conflict between the player characters, or design situations that force co-operation. Snuff, for example, needs the cat and snake for important explorations. Although characters in October haven’t quite the ability of Amberites to avoid each other, they still have a tendency to “bunker down” or ignore each other unless you form links between them which make the risks of co-operation worthwhile. The easiest way to form these links is to use rumours, but designing the plot to throw the players together is also very important.
The Campaign “Day”:
For the most part of each day, the characters are performing minor errands which need not be played, or are patrolling the area waiting for something interesting to happen. Patrolling doubles as a method of calculation and also brings about those coincidental meetings which allow rumours to be traded. Gamesmasters might ask each player to write on a note what they are doing this game day. If two familiars cross paths, then arrange a rendezvous.
In the evenings, the papers arrive. Jack and Snuff comb the papers with a Sherlockian assiduousness, since distorted reflections of the play of others can be seen in print. Gamesmasters should prepare a brief monologue containing hints, clues, tips and gossip that’s several days old. If something incontestably true and shockingly public occurs, such as someone burning down the local Finishing School for Young Ladies, a surprisingly popular gambit in the author’s own game, this will certainly be in the next day’s paper.
Between midnight and one in the morning Familiars can talk to their Players. These updates make great diary entries. In those games where the human half of the team is usually played by the gamesmaster this is an important time of the day, since the Player is the finest resource the familiar has.
Story Seeds Taken From “A Night…”
Ancient Games: Snuff remembers games from very long ago. One that he mentions had no participants, as all of the Players lost their nerve at the last moment. Another he recalls was won by the Closers because everyone turned up at the wrong spot. In each of these cases the Closers seem to win because although the Gateway can begin Opening on its own, the Elder Gods cannot escape without the aid of the Openers.
Retreating: Snuff and Jack had laid in contingencies for the Game’s loss. What they planned afterward is unclear. What sanctuary did they have to run to? Can awakened Elder Gods be overcome through some sort of guerrilla war?
The Site: Since magic is pooling into the site of the final confrontation, magic is more powerful there than in other places for a lengthy period prior to the confrontation. The Elder Gods and the forces that keep them bottled are able to interact with the world more directly at this point than others.
Snuff’s age: Snuff mentions a legend of a madman with a dog, but his name would not have made sense before tobacco was imported from the Americas. They talk of times long ago, and previous games, but it is never explicit that Snuff became Jack’s watchdog for the first Game. It is never explained why Snuff has changed his name.
Snuff’s travels: Snuff has been to India recently, and, less recently to the West Indies. He mentions being in Dijon and, a very long time ago, in Alexandria.
The Source of Familiars: We are never told explicitly where familiars come from. This is important, as it may influence how long they live, what skills they have, and what activities in their past the gamesmaster can hook scenarios into. Snuff states that he prefers being a watchdog to what he was before. Graymalk mentions that she was an alley cat whose kittens were killed before Jill found her. Cheeter says that he was “drafted” into the Game, a term out of place in the mouth of a Victorian animal. It is unclear if Snuff and Graymalk have similar rituals attached to them as Cheeter’s shadow magic, but if they do, it seems likely that Snuff’s can be carried on his journeys.
Story Ideas Extrapolated From “A Night…”
Ancient Game Sites: Even if the game has only been played thrice a century, there are dozens, possibly hundreds, of ancient game sites, which may yet be littered with mystical after-effects. These sites may be where Jack and company spend their time between Games, since magical energy between Games is a scarce commodity.
Cults: So far as can be seen, neither side has a traditional priesthood or caste of illuminated ones who are trained specifically to play the Game. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, frankly, since the one thing we know about Cthulhu and his chums are they have cults serving them, and the one thing we know about Closers are that they seem to survive Games on a regular basis. Why have none of these people, so far as we can tell, set up a training school? Perhaps the talent required to play is so rare that magicians seem never to meet each other save at the Game. Possibly they repel each other in some mystical fashion. Were this true, it would make partnerships like Morris and Macab’s more difficult to explain.
Deus Abscodus: Why did they Gods leave? How did they “transcend”? Why do they wish to return? In Lovecraft’s work, they left until the Stars Were Right to return, and would need the aid of a human being to be free. Lovecraft’s view is not, of course, binding on the Gamesmaster.
Dreaming: Every character has some skill in Dreaming, but it is not a power that they can control with finesse. Dreaming is one of those wonderful powers that lets you run scenarioes that take no time out of the main game, and allows you to slip cryptic clues into the player’s minds, through the tableaux of Dreamland.
Escaping Tools: For some reason the Closers don’t hold all of the Tools after their victory. There must be reasons why Jack doesn’t turn up with the icon, bowl and ring, having taken them as souvenirs after previous Games. When the Game is won, none of the Players take a moment to grab the Icon. Presumably there is a reason for this.
Extra Tools?: Snuff mentions that here are neutral tools “such as” the icon, bowl and ring. This implies that there may be other Tools. One way Tools might be formed is to be used repeatedly as props in the Game. For example, were Jack to die, it is possible that his knife would enter the Game as a Tool, possibly aligned to the Closing cause. Other Tools are created by humans of great mystical insight, usually for some purpose other than the Game. A wily Gamesmaster may introduce unusual Tools to complicate their game. Snuff seems to expect only the five Tools we have seen to appear in this Game, assigning the Ring and Bowl to players before he has confirmed their presence. Perhaps each game only attracts certain Tools? Perhaps Tools can be destroyed, or lost seemingly forever?
Only one of the Neutral Tools has an Adjective, the Alhazared Icon. Zelazny may have included this simply to fulfil one of the conventions of the Cthulhu Mythos story, that you need to mention the mad Arab, even if it’s only on a silly sign in a window, for example. The characters within the story, however, probably have a reason for retaining the Adjective. Maybe there is a second Icon which is sufficiently important to them that they need to differentiate the two?
Familiar Role and Absence: It is never entirely clear why any of the magicians bother to have a familiar. Jack has Snuff to do calculations for him, but Quicklime’s remark in response to this revelation indicates that this is not always the case. Perhaps the familiars make it easier for the magicians to interact with the forces of the Balefire. A Gamesmaster wishing to use this idea should halve the value of the preparedness of a magician who loses their familiar before the Balefire night, unless they are able to borrow another. Before the Death of the Moon it may be possible to pay a little Preparedness and form a partnership like Morris and McCab’s with a Player of compatible technique. After the Death, it may be possible to adopt a familiar whose master has died, or to summon a new familiar, at great cost to your Preparedness.
Fewer Tools?: Aside from the possibility that Tools might be destroyed, something which apparently Jack has not done to the Opening Wand, each of the neutral tools has a creation date, so that Games set prior to these will lack that Tool.
International Games: For reasons which are not entirely clear, all of the Players in the Game seem to be Europeans. Some have come amazing distances, but none are from other Continents, so far as we can tell. The Tools which we see derive from the Near East, the Icon having been made by an Arab and the Bowl having the Pentacle, an early Jewish symbol, etched into. One game mentioned by Jack was in Alexandria, which is probably in North Africa, although Alexander the Great named several cities after himself.
Perhaps the Game can only be played if the two Wands are close to each other and, for the moment, each is in Europe? Perhaps there are regular games on other Continents? Does Jack attend these, since he appears to be the steward of the Closing Wand? How? Does Jack chase the Opening Wand about the Earth, an inversion of the Wandering Jew and Burning Nail? Are there unusual Tools hiding out on the other continents? What other historical events have been occurring in the background while the cycle of Games progresses?
Jack’s Presence At All Games: The myth given near the end of the book implies that Jack is present at all of the Games. This may or may not be accurate depending on which characters were lying and when. For example, Quicklime claims to have played before, yet he and Snuff do not know each other’s Orientations. Morris and MacCab seem to know that Jack has the Closing Wand, or is, at least, a Closer. This may imply that Games only occur in areas Jack may reach. He may have some magic that allows rapid travel to loci of Games. Snuff mentions a Game he’d heard of where no-one turned up, implying he wasn’t present. This may be a ruse.
Living on the Site: What happens if a player accidentally places their dwelling precisely on the site of the Opening? The circle would form around them, although calculations might be confused. This is the author’s preferred rationale for the game in which everyone had the incorrect site.
Mismatched Pair: When designing the Adisham setting, which you’ll discover later in the book, I wrote a pair of characters who couldn’t be kept in, lest the game get overcrowded. The concept behind them was that they were a married couple, deeply committed to each other, who had taken opposite sides in the Game. They still lived under the same roof and agreed not to ruin the business of the other, and had a single familiar who worked for each on alternate days, staying neutral at the final night. Their house becomes one of the few neutral places after the Death of the Moon, a welcome sanctuary for first-time players.
Multiple Houses: The gambit of having multiple Houses might, if used properly, throw off the rest of the Players. Why has no-one thought of it before?
Structures of Power: Each player is creating a “Structure of Power” according to Jack. The nature of this structure is unclear. It may be a metaphysical bubble. or it may be a physical object. If it is a physical object, it’s more easily sabotaged, which may indicate why the Players have a prohibition against house-breaking.
The Yellow Emperor and Mirrors: Snuff’s reference here is presumably to the Emperor of China, for whom the colour yellow was, at times, reserved. He may also be referring to the King In Yellow, a fictional character from the book of the same name. The Ruination of Hali, mentioned as being connected to the Icon by Quicklime, was probably perpetrated by the King in Yellow.
[B:] Characters From “A Night…”
Jack 172, 191, 197.
Rastov 133, 139
Morris and McCab 122
Owen 216 speaks Welsh.
Vicar Roberts 143, 181, 182
Larry Talbot. Knows the gypsies, the count and the doctor.
The Great Detective 112
The Old Cat and Growler
Nightwind is a calculator.
Larry is wrong about the Count’s orientation.
Heap of mistletoe.
Graymalk knows about the blade.
Snuff knows about the icon when the game begins.
Vicar knows about Jack.
172 hiding players
[B:] Gamesmastering Techniques
Scaring people isn’t easy.
We can’t teach you how to do it in this book without publishing a companion volume, but we can give some pointers:
There are a lot of other RPGs about, including “Call of Cthulhu”, “Chill”, “Ravenloft” and “GURPS Horror” which have lengthy sections escribing ways of scaring people. Read some of these.
Yes, we know that’s a cop out, so here are some other pointers, just to get you started:
[A:] Scenario Ideas
[B:] The Adisham Setting
The Adisham setting for October is meant to closely mirror that of the book. It is set in the Victorian period, meaning that the technologies available to the Players reflect those of the historical Britain of the 1890s. The characters are also primarily of European origin. It’s possible, of course, to play games set in other cultures and times, but period dramas giving a feel of Victorian England are commonly available in video rental outlets across the globe, so this period has been chosen for convenience.
The Village Of Adisham
Adisham is a tiny village within a day’s travel of London by coach. Its proximity to the capital means that its population is a mixture of agricultural labourers and relatively affluent people whose business does not require their continually presence in the City. Adisham contains all of the sites required of the historical genre, so that there is a church, a manor on the hill, a local pub or two and the other backdrops of romanticised rural life.
[Insert map here]
The Secrets Of Adisham
Adisham has many secrets which perceptive player characters can gradually unfold, to give them an advantage during the Game. Some suggested secrets follow:
|The site for the balefire in this game is a Roman mithraeum buried a few inches under the sod in the nearby forest. The mithraeum was a worship site for a Roman force that was camped here long ago. The Roman road that leads to their camp distorts magical energy in the area, drawing it rapidly along its length. Characters unaware of the Roman road will place the site too far south in their calculations.|
|Adisham was the site of a Game during the sixth century A.D.. Ghosts, visions, wards and mystical preparations from this earlier game confuse the current one, tangling up players in battles begun during the Arthurian age. Characters wishing to can calculate the site of the previous game, and can watch the spectral Closers vanquish the ghostly Openers on the Balefire Night.|
|There are four NPC Players in Adisham. They are detailed in a later section.|
|Within the wood is a barrow mound that can be used to go back in time. Its occupant, a Nordic warrior, acted as the bodyguard of one of the Players in the Previous Game. His corpse and ghost guard this portal, preventing its use by all but the most tenacious of Players.|
|Sometimes faerie rings appear in the woodland. A captured enemy placed within these rings may be drawn into the Fae lands for years, returning with riches and power, but having lost their chance to affect the outcome of the game.|
|The area is filled with sites of minor occult importance, sufficient to warrant an evening’s investigation and net a little Preparedness. Mandrakes grow in the woods. There are graveyards to pillage. The Druids once had a grove near here where mistletoe still grows. Gamesmasters can expand any minor site into a major one, and characters should not always know the stakes they are playing for when poking about in a location.|
|Many characters in Adisham have secrets that have no bearing on the game save that they allow easy blackmail of their owners. It is very difficult for a Player to tell a man who is sneaking out at night to visit a lady friend from a man who is sneaking out at night to conduct Tantaric magic, so many social secrets, important to their owners but not to players, confuse the atmosphere in which the game is played.|
|One of Adisham’s graveyards has a fag corpse. That is, the last corpse buried in the graveyard acts as a servant to the corpses, much like the younger boys in English public schools. The fag corpse is not terribly dangerous to a wary magician, but it may frighten them, or ruin their night’s collection. The corpse will continue moving even if chopped into pieces, and since there may be burials after the beginning of the game, the fag corpse may be replaced by a successor. If a Player is buried in the graveyard, they will return as fag corpse. They will lose almost all of their Preparedness and will be unable to leave the graveyard. One can dismiss the fag by burying another corpse in the graveyard. [From: CROKER: Letters from the Irish Highlands, 1825.]|
[B:] N.P.Cs for the Adisham Game.
The Famous Archaeologist and Click the Beetle.
The Famous Archaeologist, Rupert Smythe, is widely known in England for his successful excavation of the tomb of Ankhptahra in Egypt. The treasures he exported to the British Museum are considered one of the finest Egyptological collections in the world, and those few items he sold illegally to private collectors have made him even richer than his landed birth would otherwise have.
Smythe is an opener. His beliefs derive from an extension of British Imperial ideology. If, as he believes, the British have a right and duty to civilise the rest of the world, subverting the culture of the natives to the superior British one, it makes sense that the inferior species, humanity, should allow itself to be ruled directly by the superior species, the Elder Gods. He is not a gibbering maniac, and will not generally discuss his beliefs to those who are not also openers. His beetle, Click, was transformed into a catouche and wrapped into the bindings of the mummy of Neferata. He served in the ancient temples to the Elder ones and assists Victoria Smythe in the maintainence of their cult.
Victoria Smythe is a priestess of Nyarlathotep who was mummified and buried with the Pharaoh. She maintains a cult to her deities throughout Adisham, using her ability with illusions to maintain the pretence of humanity. Spells that use the law of Names will not harm her if the caster does not know her birth name. Lady Silverspoon, the widow who runs the manor house while her son is at university, is a member of the Golden Sun cult, and will allow the trio to use her premises discretely as their home during the Game.
Rosaline, her Granny and the Wolf, Lycana.
Rosaline is a sixteen year old girl who lives with her parents in Adisham. Her father is a retired barrister, who married the daughter of a friend after his first wife died and was pleasantly suprised that he was able to father so charming a child so late in life. His other children live in the City or are making lives for themselves in the Colonies. His mother lives in a cottage in the Wood.
Granny, as Rosaline calls Julia Landsbury, played in the last Game, which was thirty years ago in Turkey. Granny is a closer, and her family of witches have cared for Adisham since Stone Age peasants first settled here. She has done all she can to prepare her grandchild to carry the closing wand at the Balefire, but she knows it isn’t enough, so she has a cunning scheme that she hopes will keep the Closing cause afloat.
At the last game one of the Opener familiars was a wolf named Lycana. Characters who played in that game will remember her terrible master, the Hunting Lord, perishing when dragged into the fire. After the game Julia hunted down the wolf and killed her. Once Julia’s own familiar had died, she sought out a wolf with Closing sympathies and had her adopt her old enemy’s name.
Before the Death of the Moon Julia will play just as fiercely as anyone, but her “familiar”, a little rabbit called Coney, will avoid trading information. Lycana will prowl the woods, interacting with the player characters and hinting that she has a score to settle. After the Death of the Moon Rosaline will sacrifice her grandmother, kill a wild rabbit and feed both to Lycana, who will be her guide, teacher and familiar through the rest of the Game. Coney, Rosaline’s pet, will be hidden in her family’s basement.
Since murders after the Death of the Moon do not change the geography of the Game, Rosaline and Lycana hope that no-one will suspect that they are a playing pair. If at all possible, they’ll not tell anyone until they can divine sides. Lycana will continue to hang around, pretending to be working for an Opening. Although magic will show that she’s a Closer, it has to be worded carefully, as spells based on her assumed name will read the personality of her dead namesake, confirming an Opening orientation and a dead master. She hopes no-one will check her anyway, since the geography should still be correct after the sacrificial gambit and divination wastes time and resources. One of Lycana’s aims is to have everyone co-operating on finding the centre, so that none of them feel the need to divine her status. She will help the Openers a great deal in this, since she doesn’t care much if a Closer discovers her secret.
Rosaline was inspired by the film version of “Company of Wolves” by Angela Carter.
The Eminent Professor and Wenda, the Parrot.
The Eminent Professor’s qualifications are in theology, although his most recent researches have all been in the pseudoscience of mesmerism. Far from a parlour game of daring confessions, Albert Westhampton sees mesmerism as the next great step in the development of civilisation. He has joined the Game not because he believes in Elder Gods, but because he believes bringing this game of symbols to its conclusion will lead him to a form of Enlightenment which he can then express to others.
The Professor suffers from an inability to accept the possibility of the supernatural. He believes that those undergoing mesmeric experiments can have horrible hallucinations and that these hallucinations can cause brain deterioration and death, but he’ll have no part of talk of spells and demons, except if he’s studying your delusions. This is a mental defence he concocted years ago, after several brushes with death between the jaws of a rakasha in India, and his subconscious has a strong vested interest in the idea that rakashasi and, by extension all supernatural beings, don’t really exist and can’t really hurt people.
Wenda, his parrot, is under no illusions that monsters are unreal, but also knows that there is no way the Eminent Professor will come to agree with her opinion. She therefore carefully filters the information she gives him so as to elicit the response she desires.
Eugena the Shadmock and Harry, her monkey.
Shadmocks are beautiful humans, tall and wan, with hair of the palest gold and eyes of blue so pale they verge on grey. They are the children of mocks and any other monster. Other monsters consider them the least pure breed of monster, yet are terrified of them, as they seem also to be the most dangerous. The tribes of monsters appear in the book “The Monster Club” by R. Chetwynd-Hayes. The author of this work suggests you read the book in preference to watching the film, which doesn’t entirely capture the humour of the stories, and does not contain the classic Tree of Monsterdom or descriptions of the terrible Things Chetwynd-Hayes has designed.
Shadmocks, thankfully, only whistle. By this saying monsters admit their fear of the power of the Shadmocks, whose whistling mouths emit beams of blinding, cutting light. A shadmock’s whistle will cut through three centimetres of wrought iron and will create debilitating injuries in monsters. They can whistle whenever they like, and their piping, angelic voices do not accidentally slice up their conversational partners.
Most shadmocks seem childlike, indulging innocently in terrible pleasures. Eugena is one of these. She is a closer because she doesn’t want the game to end. She sees the Elder Gods as a construction team sitting outside her sandbox, waiting to level it to build a new highway. She’s not about to stand for that.
If the Openers don’t stop what they’re doing, she just might lose her temper….
A mysterious young Cornishman is visiting the village, living in a local pub and doing odd jobs to earn his keep. He’s handsome and cheery, but not a churchgoer. Many of the young girls would like to be stepping out with him, but he shows a noble restraint. That this makes him a challenge doesn’t aid his apparent quest to be left alone.
The man, who goes by the name of Thomas Erbin, is the King of the Selkies, and he is searching for a bride to take with him below the waves. He can sense magic, and knows that the Game is going on. He might be convinced to assist one side or the other, especially by a virginal and attractive blonde. Eugena doesn’t register as human to him, so he isn’t interested in her.
The Bride of the Selkie King either lives in riches for the rest of her life in his undersea palace or drowns, so that he can thatch his roof with her golden locks.
Chipper, the freelance familiar.
Chipper is a bright little squirrel whose master died during their preparation for the Game. He’s come to the game site anyway, in the hope of nudging things one way or the other. In the beginning he has a small bundle of his master’s preparedness to parley for information, but later in the game he lacks the “battery” of information that having a master provides, and will have to live by his wits, trading or spying.
Mary is the ghost of one of the Openers from the pervious game. She is included as a romantic interest for one of the characters. With enough effort, the player might forsake the present Game to save her using the time displacing power of the Barrow. It is firmly suggested that the Gamesmaster not allow time travel to affect the outcome of the last Game. A character removing Mary from the old Balefire contest ensures the defeat of the Openers, since she is carrying their Wand.
Mary is no longer in favour of the Opening, but is willing to pretend to be if it seems useful to her. She can sense the coming death of a Player, although cannot tell which it will be. She has the power to whip up storms, although she cannot hide the moon on the final night. Less romantic players can capture her for Preparedness if they can find her remains.
The Warrior Under Stone
A preserved corpse slumbers in a woodland barrow, clad in rotting leather armour. Upon his chest lies a magical sword. His name is Erec, and he guards a gateway.
The sympathetic magic between the first Adisham game, in the sixth century, and the modern game allows characters to slip from one time to another. Although this can initially only be achieved in dreams, Erec’s barrow, which covers the site of the last Balefire, allows physical access from one time to another. Erec knows this, and has been sleeping these thousands of years waiting for the Game to begin again.
Erec is a Closer, and will allow access between the times only if he is sure that it will do the Opening cause harm in both times. He will resist forcibly any attempt to change the past so that the Openers won the previous Game. He can shut the gateway by committing ritual suicide. Even then his ghost will linger in the area until the game is over, when he heads off to wherever good Closers go when they die.
Norbert, the Elemental:
Norbert is a tiny shrew-like creature which eats socks and hankerchiefs. He prefers those belonging to magicians. Although not malicious, he can worry players by crossing their wards to steal their washing. Occassionally Norbert finds useful bits of information about non-magicians in the village, which he is willing to pass on for a tasty sock. Norbert’s kind eat your pens and pencils go while you aren’t looking. [From: Christian Morgenstern, Ghost, 1919.]
Adisham Arching Threads
This game will focus on how the past builds the present and how the present interprets the past.
|The ghost stories. Players can watch the sixth century Game unfold, try to rescue Mary and recruit Erec to their cause. The ghosts terrify locals and draw a response. The Balefire site is defended by spirits. Spirit hunters, the followers of magical traditions that have been poorly preserved, will dog the Players, causing inconvenience.|
|Rosaline’ and Granny’s plan|
|Eugena’s grandfather tuns up, throwing a wild card into the game.|
|The weather hates the characters, as a convention of the Gothic genre.|
|The town has civic events which the Selkie attends, in his search for romance.|
|The romantic convention of the genre will be upheld with the judicious use of NPCs.|
|Victoria’s cult will gradually expand as the game progresses, subverting the allies of player characters where possible.|
|The Great Detective will meddle with the Game.|
|Other arching plots determined by you.|
|As a humorous sub-plot, characters who become lost in the woods can sometimes emerge on the Riverbank as described by Kenneth Graheme and William Hornwood.|
Print this. Space has been provided at the bottom of each day for you to make short notes. Chop up your copy and paste it onto your prompt sheets.
1 Erec awakens from his millennial sleep. Familiars should meet each other on this and the following day.
2 A character sees the ghostly image of a long-dead Player collecting magical components.
3 Victoria’s cult will begin recruiting the servants, if any, of other player characters, using sex, drugs, money and blackmail. They’d prefer not to use magic, since it is too easily detectable.
The Eminent Professor will begin holding Mesmerist’s Evenings. This parlour game is just his way of setting up private consultations which will allow him to rummage through the minds of locals for clues as to local mystical sites.
4 Mary’s ghost awakens. She should be spotted by at least one character in the next few days. She can, in theory, possess humans of weaker will and animals, but isn’t aware of this ability so she doesn’t use it.
5 The players bump into each other as they swipe everything not nailed down that might be magical. Tavern signs are particularly popular targets for this inspired kleptomania.
6 The papers begin to become concerned by the number of murders in London. The police presence increases in the dingy areas of the capital.
7 The Famous Archaeologist invites the other Players to dinner at a local ruin. His servants set up a banquet and then retire. This is a chance for the players to play their human characters. If your players enjoy this scene, repeat it approximately every Game week.
8 Mary becomes able to talk audibly to the living and affect small physical objects.
9 Sufficient locals have seen the ghosts from the last game that it makes the national media. Over the next few weeks, spook hunters of all varieties begin turning up in Adisham and interfering with the game. They sit in graveyards where Players want to dig, hang out in mystic places the Players want to investigate and spin fanciful theories that worry the locals. Eugena begins systematically sacrificing parapsychologists.
10 The town dance is held. Many players attend, as does the Selkie
The Death Bogle, a ghost that looks sort of like a large human of indeterminate gender, with a shaggy almost bestial body and bandy legs, appears at a road junction near the village. It leaps out of a hedge and then springs in great leaps after a passing traveller, attempting to tap them with its hand. Those tapped die within a week. Magicians can chase off the Death Bogle should it be pursuing them, and it is only interested in humans, but it becomes quicker and more persistent as the month comes to an end. In the last week it frighteningly quick and may be able to kill a magus through ambush.
11 Unseasonably heavy rain blankets Adisham today, overnight the rivers rise and wash away the bridges that lead to London. This is Granny’s doing. She has what she needs, and London is just too tempting a source of Preparedness for her to allow her rivals to utilise it.
12 The Famous Archaeologist torches the local Finishing School, attempting to kill as many boarders as he can, so long as it appears accidental.
13 The Great Detective arrives in Adisham, to investigate the fire. A client of his worries that his daughter was attacked as a warning before part of a blackmail attempt. He’s wrong, but that doesn’t stop the Detective coming to poke around anyway.
14 Eugena’s grand-dad, a shaddy, arrives in Adisham for a visit. Shaddies, designed by R. Chetwynd-Hayes, look like vampires with beards until they reach a certain age. At that time their bodies liquefy and drain away, and they haunt the sit of their dissolution for a while. After this time, a person can, by throwing the right things into a pot or bath in the area, build them a new body that looks like lumps of flesh thrown onto a human skeleton to make a man of red play dough. Shaddies have vampire fangs, but have ridiculously long tongues that they can use to rasp flesh from bone. Grand-dad knows the Game is on, but frankly doesn’t care. Players will see him out enjoying himself in the town and country, give rise to rumours of the return of Spring-Heeled Jack. Occasionally they’ll see Eugena frown at her grandfather with an expression like an exasperated child. Keeping Grand-dad out of scrapes will distract Harry and Eugena from more important things.
15 Last minute shopping.
16 The Great Detective discovers that Victoria is blackmailing a pillar of Adisham society, and spends many days attempting to link her activities to those of the supposed blackmailer of his client. He doesn’t discover it, but discovers enough about the game that he decides to do what he can to mitigate its effects.
17 The Death of the Moon. The ghosts of Roman soldiers who worshipped in the Mithraeum become aware of their surroundings. As yet they are diaphanous creatures, able to possess the weak-willed or animals, but lacking other abilities.
18 Granny Landsbury is sacrificed by Rosaline.
19 The Death Bogle taps a local dignitary, who confides his worries to the local priest. Without player action, the dignitary will die before the twenty-seventh.
20 The local police find a human skin in a deserted house outside Adisham. It looks just like a human being who has had their insides removed without their skin being punctured. Eugena’s grand-dad has slid his tongue down the poor unfortunate’s throat and hollowed them out from the inside.
21 Today is a rainy day in which little can be done outdoors.
22 Divination of orientation is possible from this day forth.
23 The soldiers in the Mithraeum are able to move small objects. Since there are nearly two dozen ghosts, this means they can shower those entering the tomb with fist-sized stones. Although the soldiers will defend the game site to the best of their ability, they can be convinced by a sufficiently persuasive character to allow the Balefire to proceed. The simplest procedure for convincing them is to demand to speak to their priest or superior officer, in this case the same person. Characters can then convince him to order his men to stand down. This is most easily done by appealing to his faith in Mithra, a god worshipped with fire-rituals and sacrifices.
24 The local shopkeeper, a member of Victoria’s cult, will poison the food of her rivals as per her instructions. If the Selkie’s sweetheart is poisoned, thick, boiling cloud will coat the village until the Game ends. If he finds out who is responsible, that person will never be safe on a boat again, and even bathing might be dangerous.
25 Disturbed locals decide to perform a religious procession with pagan motifs around some area that they consider to be haunted. If they are not manipulated into selecting some other target, they’ll walk the bounds of the village, forming a defensive ring about it that players and familiars cannot walk through unless invited in. If placed around a magician’s house, it bars access in the same way. Destroying this warding costs 15 Preparedness and two days’ work.
29 The soldiers of the Mithraeum become solid by firelight.
30 Mary becomes entirely solid while under moonlight.
31 On Hallowe’en night the children of this village summon each other to a little churchyard in the middle of the village. They indulge in innocent pleasures such as roasting nuts and telling stories, but this may distract a player on their way to Moon Death.
|An exploration of the ruins of the home of any of the players that died in the previous game.|
|Dream sequences in which the characters interact with the familiars from the previous game.|
|Uncovering secrets, mystical or otherwise, about prominent locals.|
|Graverobbing and other acts of collection.|
|Discussions with local animals.|
Sources for Adisham
When this section was being written, I needed a name for the village in which this game was set. The novel I was reading at the time, Lance Parkin’s The Dying Days, has a scene set in a village named Adisham. I hope that residents of the real-world village of Adisham will accept my apologies for what I have done to their town.
doesn’t use an auction to decide the characters’ rankings in Attributes. It makes little sense for characters who have never met each other to know each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities. has four attributes: Psyche, Warfare, Endurance and Forewarning. There is no auction in October, since, in Amber, the auction process represents the years the characters spent together as squabbling children. Your gamesmaster assigns ranks based on the number of points in each attribute you purchase, so this can be thought of as a single, secret bid. Your gamesmaster will not tell you what your ranks are, as your character has had no chance to compare their abilities to those of the other players and companions before the start of the Game.