“Remember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel.” – The Monster to the Modern Prometheus – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Now you may be wondering what a classic gothic horror novel has to do with the technologically advanced Clockwork Lands, and that’s alright – but bear with me, it’ll be worth it.
The Clockwork Lands are a loose amalgam of several corporatized oligarchs who constantly vie for power. They constantly strive to produce new and more powerful automated creatures to ease the livelihood of the people, and to turn profits. The Mark I Multipurpose golem’s being the finest creation any of the corporations have to offer. In this backdrop you can ‘Run the Shadows’ in a full fantasy setting, that is rebel against the corporations fighting against corporate greed by acting outside their influence and sabotaging their technology for the highest bidder. You could fight against the machine cults praying to the dark machine spirits they fear or revere. All perfectly viable, playable options, but I think there’s something far more delightful to be found in the ticking machines of the Clockwork.
Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about using the Clockwork Lands as a setting for a gothic adventure, one that could twist a knife in the very soul of player character and player alike. You have all the ingredients necessary for a gothic story to unfold:
- Setting: It needs to be supernatural, which it is. I won’t spend much time here, this one’s obvious. We’re in a land of magic and technology, of power and secrets. It’s perfect.
- Mystery: Things you can include: prophecy, omens, portents, visions, fortune telling, etc… Disturbing dreams, weird astrological events, crop circles, whatever it takes to make your players nervous.
- Suspense: You must keep players on their toes. Don’t be afraid to leave things to their imagination. In fact, they should be thinking of all sorts of nightmarish scenarios all on their own if you’re keeping them engaged.
- Emotions: Keep them high. Anger, sorrow, surprise, fear, and especially, terror – Make Plutchik proud.
- Metonymy: This is the use of one thing to represent another. For example, think about funerals in the media. It’s always raining, why? The rain represents sorrow and sadness. Anger? Thunder. Happiness? Rainbows. It’s just an example though, nix the rainbows.
- Romance: This may or may not fit your story, or may better be worked in using NPCs, but love, unrequited love, tension between a true love and a parental figure, estranged lovers, illicit love threatening virtue, or rival love is often employed to further prey upon emotions.
Now that we’ve established what you need to make a horror game work, I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for the inclusion of this into the Clockwork Lands…but how?
I’ve a couple of ideas for you.
In the midst of the night rain had turned to snow, giving the whole world an ashen pallor. In the distance stood a castle built into the face of a small mountain, a village housed beneath. Perched high above, its frowning battlements and grim towers looked down, while the cottages below were clustered around like goslings around a goose…
Now we have a setting, but what’s going on? I’ve got three scenarios for you:
- In the shadows of the old castle, murder occurs in the night. This third one this month. As the blood of the victim cools the PCs are thrust into the midst of it, as they are strangers in town – and thus, the most obvious choice to be punished to put the city at ease. What no one knows is that something went terribly wrong with one of the Mark 1’s. Through some cruel twist of fate, it has become conscious, or Awakened knowledgeable of its own existence; self-aware. The creature’s motives are up to you. Perhaps it’s learning how to live, or somehow being manipulated – either way, it was not in control of its own fate.
- A bounty hunter who specializes in the removal and deletion of golems who malfunctions has made a fatal error. Instead of eliminating a golem he’s killed three innocent people. Now he must contend with the investigations and try to hunt down a rogue golem, who has been magically disguised as a woman. The bounty hunter finds himself smitten by the disguised golem and should the PCs unveil the plot, who knows how he will respond. And of course, he might just be a golem himself.
- A great artificer mourns the death of a loved one, perhaps a spouse or child. In the dark confines of his workshop he works tirelessly to infuse life into an automaton to fill the void left in his hollow life. He succeeds, but the golem is not what he wanted. In a cruel twist of fate, the golem is a monster, twisting his sorrow into murder and destruction.
Now, keep in mind that playing a horror game is more challenging than an ordinary game of hack ‘n slash. You must track pacing, emotions, ambiance, even lighting and sound can have a pronounced effect on the game experience. The Clockwork Nations have all the setting information you need to run a horrifying game, all that’s missing is a little inspiration from Poe, Eco, Leroux, Stoker, or Shelley.
by Alex Kugler
One of the stragnegest races in the Clockwork Lands is the eventuals. Eventuals are bastard children of inevitables. To fit out more about these denizens of the Clockwork Lands check out Fehr’s Ethnology.