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[Colonial Gothic Revised] — Your amuse-bouche

November 4, 2008

I am making great progress on the revised rules.

A lot of tweaking, and a lot of excitement on my part, because the revised version is making me happy. Of the 13 Chapters, I have only 5 more to go before the first draft is done. Then I need to heavily edit, revise, tweak, beat, mutilate and work the draft. There is a lot more I need to do with this game, but my goal of having a working draft done before next weekend is on track.

Anyway, here is a very _rough_ draft of the first chapter. Please note, that a lot of this will be rewritten, but the guts should remain.

A Primer


Colonial Gothic is a supernatural historical roleplaying game drawing inspiration from the history of the Colonial period of the Americas. From discovery to the war of Independence, Colonial Gothic gives you the tools to set games during this period. In Colonial Gothic you play a Hero, who through the course of their adventures slowly uncovers the reality of the world.

What is this reality?

Lurking in the shadows are mysterious and foul plots. Enemies have been influencing events, and pulling strings. Though the world may be entering into a new age of reason, there are many seeing the world in a different way. Creatures of the occult and supernatural exist, and magic is a real force of nature. Your Hero might know this, or they might come to know this.

Everything you need to know as a player and GM is found in the chapter. This primer, tells you what to expect from the game, explains the core mechanic, and tells you what to do with the game.

What to do with the game? Yes. Roleplaying games tend to forget to tell you what to do with the game. After all the rules and options, often little room is spent telling you what a game should feel like. This Primer does this. As a player, you should know after reading this chapter what your Hero is able to do, and what they should expect from the world of Colonial Gothic. As a GM, you will know what to do with Colonial Gothic and the type of games you can run. The Primer is your amuse-bouche if you will. This one bite sets the table for what is to come. So without further ado, let’s have a taste!


Colonial Gothic is a world mired in mysteries, secrets and plots. Some of these secrets and plots you determine for yourself; other secrets are found within this book. In this rulebook, the horror relies heavily upon your imagination and ingenuity using the tools provided for you to play the game. Whether you choose to play a Hero fighting a campaign in the American Revolution who discovers how brutal and bloody war truly is, or whether you decide to play a Hero tracking down an accused Witch just outside of town, that is entirely up to you. As a Hero, you play a mortal fighting against Villains. As you discover more and more about the Villains you face, you’ll begin to realize that some enemies are all too human while others are just simply monsters.

Colonial Gothic is designed with the following premise: the occult and supernatural is real. Drawing upon history and Colonial Gothic comes from the perspective of how the colonists viewed the occult and supernatural. Witches are real. Devils exist, as do demons. Magic actually exists and is able to be worked. Most colonists have either chosen to rationalize the occult and supernatural away, have been irreversibility damaged by their experiences, or have accepted it for what it is. Those accepting it have chosen to put no only their sanity and faith on the line, but their reputation as well. Viewing themselves as the last line of defense, these Heroes war with these forces out of sight in the shadows.

On a larger scale, there is something not right in the world of Colonial Gothic. Something dark, malicious and purposeful gnaws are the edges and its’ touch causes the world to go awry. Though many try to give this a name, no name defines it and no one knows what it truly is. Not even the Natives who have lived on the land before the White Man “discovered” it, know what it is. They know evil infects the land, and it is spreading. What is this evil? There are many theories, but no real answers. What is known is that it influences things, inspires events and threatens all life. Who stands against this? Your hero.

For the Players

Your Hero is a colonists hailing from one of the colonies found in the New World. For the most part the world is entering a new age—The Age of Reason. The world is slowly leaving behind its’ roots of myth and superstition and is beginning to embrace a world that is defined by mathematics and science. It was Descartes, Hobb, Newton and others who moved the world into a new way of thinking. Though most have embraced these new roots, some have not. There are those who know the truth—magic is real!

In Colonial Gothic you play a Hero who knows that Magic is real and the horrors that it can create in the form of monsters. These monsters could be anywhere. They could be witches cursing a settlement, vampires that followed European immigrants to the New World, or angry spirits terrorizing a Cherokee tribe. Whether you’re fighting in the frontier or you’re fending off a supernatural disease like Curse from the Grave you, along with others like you, will wage a hidden war because there is no one else brave enough to face the Devil’s minions, fight them and win.

For the GM

As a GM, you create adventures and campaigns loosely inspired by Colonial American history. The horror adventures you create revolve around the supernatural and the mundane. From monsters, to scheming merchants and politicians, there are many campaign possibilities for you to discover in Colonial Gothic. To help you craft your game, we’ve outlined three, different styles of play:

High Action Style is one that downplays the supernatural and the occult. Instead of slaying demons, the Heroes will fight against more common threats like slavers, French Traders, and the British Military, to name a few. Campaigns that work well for this style would be movies like Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves or The Patriot; or the stories of Robert Howard’s Solomon Kane. If a military campaign does not interest you, you could create a campaign based around discovery or exploration. The Colonies and Her lands are still new to most people–many resources and Native cultures are waiting to be discovered. This style works well for players that like a lot of movement in their game; it also works well for players that want to explore the natural side to this setting.

Occult & Mystery Style is one that introduces players to the occult, but takes a softer approach to the horrors that might await them. The threats your players face are few and far between; you create adventures that are focused around a mystery. The mystery you design might be based on a strange cult intent on winning the War for its own, devilish reasons or a necromancer intent on infiltrating the militia. While the setting details of movies like Sleepy Hollow and From Hell are not an exact fit to Colonial Gothic, these are two movies that are written in a similar vein—strong setting, an aura of dark mystery, and a suspension of disbelief. For books, both the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathanial Hawthorn, Irving Washington and H. P. Lovecraft Whatever mystery you choose, the goal of this style is to utilize players that are more interested in investigating than engaging in constant, heavy combat.

Supernatural Style is the default style of Colonial Gothic. Similar to Occult & Mystery, this style has that same touch of magic and mayhem. However, in this style of play, the Hero’s threats are more ancient and widespread than they would be in Occult & Mystery. Similarly themed examples of a larger, supernatural threat that would be considered “epic” would be movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, and Brotherhood of the Wolf. These movies each have a large-enough threat that, if it succeeds, would change the world’s fabric of reality. For writers, Shelly and Stroker. Many Heroes don’t know much about how Magic works; they only have a vague understanding of how to fight what monsters it sometimes creates. Some Heroes try to use Magic and the occult to their own advantage; others shy away from it.

Regardless of the style you choose, action in Colonial Gothic is larger-than-life. What does this mean to you, as a GM? Heroes and Villains are capable of performing feats that others may find impossible. When you’re designing your adventures and running your games, remember to think “big” and allow your players to react “bigger.” We’ve designed the rules with the swashbuckling Hero and the dastardly Villain in mind; not only will your players have fun being the Hero—you’ll have a great time watching them interact with each other in game.

Do you have an idea of the game you’d like to run?

Let’s get ready to play!


Everything you need to know in order to play Colonial Gothic is found in this book. The basics found in this chapter should allow you to quickly understand the game’s mechanical foundations. Of course, Colonial Gothic, isn’t complex. Most rules are fairly straightforward and easy to remember. Nevertheless, there are a handful of occasions when multiple modifiers and special cases come into play. The better you understand the basic rules, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with those few exceptions.

Playing the Game

To play Colonial Gothic you need a few things.

* First, two twelve-sided dice (D12). GMs might want to have a few more handy.
* Second, a blank piece of paper (or a Hero sheet) and a pencil.
* Third—a willingness to have fun.

Rules Overview

Let’s talk briefly about the core mechanic running the game.

Action in Colonial Gothic isn’t intended to be “realistic” or “gritty.” It’s meant to recreate the type of action you’re likely to read in books, seen in comic books or magna, or see in a movie or television show. Note—Colonial Gothic is not cartoonish or ridiculously over the top, but the emphasis is on verisimilitude and plausibility rather than a strict reality simulation. The game’s rules, known as 12°, are designed to accommodate this style of play with ease. Action is about doing things in a flashy and larger-than-life way. It is one thing to say your Hero is fighting a zombie; it’s another to say they are doing so while balancing on a church’s roof.

Every action, regardless if your Hero is firing a musket, or intimidating a merchant, is handled the same way. Roll 2d12 and if the result is equal to or less than your Target Number (TN), the action succeeds.

Simple as that.

Your TN is a number based on two associated Abilities or Skills plus or minus any modifiers. For example, if your Hero wants to throw a tomahawk and has an Agility 6 and Throw 6, your TN is 12. Thus, rolling a 2d12 and getting a result of 11 results in a success; rolling 2d12 and getting a 23 results in a failure.


All actions in Colonial Gothic are called Tests. There are three types of Tests — Ability, Skill, and Opposed — that depend on specific situations; the Game Master will tell you what type of Test you need to make if it’s not obvious.

Ability Tests

Ability Tests depend on one of your Hero’s Abilities and used in times of great need or danger. These Tests are not tied to Skills; instead they are tied to your Hero’s inborn ability to do something. Your Target Number is always the unmodified Rank in your Ability.

For example, suppose your Hero is running away from some cultists thugs. You decide to shake your pursuers by declaring your Hero is diving into a nearby canal and holding his breath while underwater, hoping the thugs don’t spot him. Once your Hero reaches his limit, your GM tells you to make a Body Test, to see if your Hero still manages to hold his breath. In this case your TN would be your Hero’s Body Ability (8). Rolling 2d12 the result is 15, failure. Thus your Hero fails his Body Test and begins drowning.

Skill Tests

Skill Tests are the most common tests found in Colonial Gothic. Most actions, from shooting a musket to researching a demon, are handled by Skill Tests. Your Target Number in a Skill Test equals your Skill Rank plus the Rank of the Skill’s associated Ability, plus or minus any bonus or penalties associated with the Test. The resulting number is the one you need to meet in order to succeed.
For example, your Hero is climbing a wall. This is normally a Routine Test. Unfortunately, your Hero is attempting to climb a wall in the pouring rain while not being spotted by guards patrolling the area. Your Hero’s Athletics skill is 7 and his Agility is 6, making your TN 13. Due to the rain and the need for your Hero to be silent, your GM assesses your Hero a –4 penalty, which lowers your Hero’s TN to 9 for this Test.

Opposed Tests

Opposed Tests are tests between two, separate Heroes, usually occurring when your Hero is competing against another Hero or is acting out against a non-player Hero of some sort. Opposed Tests are necessary because the degree of your Hero’s success (or failure) determines how the game’s events unfold. Opposed Tests require two or more parties to make a Test; whoever rolls highest, but still below their Target Number, succeeds. Opposed Tests also come into play for some specific skills, such as Stealth, as well as in combat.

An example of an Opposed Test for Stealth would be in the case of hiding. Your Hero is trying to sneak into a protected house. A guard is keeping watch, and the GM states that they have a chance noticing your Hero sneaking into the house. The GM tells you to make a Stealth Test; while the GM makes an Observe Test. Rolling the dice your result is a 4 (your TN was 12)—success! The GM, rolling for the guard (whose TN is 9), rolls a 12—failure. Your Hero easily sneaks into the house, while the guard standing watch, fails to notice him.

Success and Failure

As long as you roll a number equal to your Target Number or lower, your Hero succeeds at his actions. Anytime you roll higher than your TN, your Hero fails. In some cases, your Hero may also experience a Dramatic Success or a Dramatic Failure.

Dramatic Success

Anytime you roll a “2” on a 2d12, you score a Dramatic Success. The meaning of a Dramatic Success varies with the type of Test being used. Typically it means your Hero has not only succeeded, but did so in a spectacular, memorable fashion. In combat, a Dramatic Success indicates you have dealt your opponent maximum damage for his weapon type, whereas in a Skill Test it indicates that you’ve achieved all you were attempting and more.

Dramatic Failure

Rolling a “24” on a 2d12 means your Hero experiences a Dramatic Failure. What this means is that your Hero not only failed their Test, but also performed his action so badly that he has either placed himself in danger or otherwise adversely affected himself (and possibly his companions). In combat, a Dramatic Failure indicates that your sword breaks, while in a Skill Test it indicates that you are either badly mistaken or have failed in such a way so as to make his situation more precarious.


As you might expect a game mechanic called 12°, your Hero’s degree of success is important. Your degree of success is the amount by which you roll under your Target Number. For example, your Hero’s TN is 14 and you roll 11, your degree of success is 3. In combat, your degree of success acts as a multiplier to your weapon’s base damage.

Using the above example, if your Hero is fighting with a sword with a base damage value of 5 and achieved 3 degrees of success, he would deal 15 points of damage to his opponent.
In skill use, degrees of success have a much more “impressionistic” meaning, which is to say, largely up to the GM. Generally, degrees of success either indicate the time factor removed from the task or the increase in its effectiveness. Returning to the above example, a task normally taking 10 rounds might take only 7 if you achieve 3 degrees of success. Ultimately, the Game Master is the final arbiter of how degrees of success improve Skill-based tasks, but it should always be an obvious improvement that increases with the more degrees of success a Hero achieves.

Bonus and Penalties

Sometimes, depending on the situation, your Hero gains a bonus or penalty to a Test. These modifiers change the Target Number of the Test, making it easier (or harder) for your Hero to achieve what you want. Bonuses and penalties are never applied to the die roll; they are added (or subtracted) directly to the TN.

GMs, as they run adventures, determine what the situations are and whether any penalties come into play. For example, suppose you are the GM, and one of your players wants to fire a crossbow while riding a running house. Typically, firing a crossbow is a Routine Task (no modifier), but firing it from a running horse is more challenging. As the GM, you decide that, due to the nature of this task, the player suffers a -3 (Challenging) penalty while firing from a running horse.

Situation Modifier
Impossible -6
Daring -5
Reckless -4
Challenging -3
Difficult -2
Hard -1
Routine +0
Feeble +1
Easy +2
Trivial +3
Simple +4
Basic +5
Instinctive +6

Fate Cards and Faith Points

Colonial Gothic succeeds, or fails, based on the Heroes played. Of course, the Game Master’s skill at creating an interesting and fun adventure is almost as important, but it’s the Heroes and their actions driving the game. To encourage you to create interesting and well-rounded Heroes, and to encourage your bringing their most interesting Heroistics to bear in your adventures, Colonial Gothic uses Fate Cards (or Hooks).

Fate Cards are roleplaying tools describing some aspect of your Hero’s past history, personality, or connections to other Heroes, among other things. For example, a Hero might have “Last surviving member of their family” or “Bearer of the devil mark” or “Strong as a ox” as Hooks. Each of these hooks is suggestive about your Hero and possibly about his relationship to the larger world—both of which make them invaluable to the GM as he plans engaging adventures in Colonial Gothic. Besides suggesting interesting things about your Hero to the GM, hooks have another more immediate benefit: Faith Points.

Faith Points (or Faith Points) are dramatic “currency” you acquire by creating Hooks. They can be traded for situational boons, such as bonuses to your Target Number, free re-rolls, and other benefits. Faith Points are finite in number, with Heroes having no more than 10 at any given time, sometimes less.

Faith Points can be regained by bringing your hooks to bear in an adventure in ways your GM thinks makes the game more exciting and fun for everyone.

© 2008, Rogue Games, Inc.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert Saint John permalink
    November 4, 2008 11:50 am

    Quick comment/suggestion for the Overview, specifically ‘Opposed Tests’. I know that when I read the TS rules and came to the similar passage — the example provided — the first question that popped into my head was “Okay, but what if the Hero and the Guard *both* succeed at their rolls?” Since the rules haven’t yet introduced the concept of Degrees until a few paragraphs later, I’d suggest closing the Opposed Tests section with “To see an example of what would happen if both parties succeeded at their roll, see the section ‘Degrees’ that follows.” Then, in the Degrees section, provide the example of how Degrees work in an Opposed Task such as Stealth vs Observe. IMO, it’s a really important part of this great mechanic, but it’s not apparent in the rules for either CG or TS.

  2. November 4, 2008 12:12 pm

    Good catch Robert, and I forgot to do this when I was writing the above. I will make sure I make it clearer and gives examples. I think what happens, at least for me, I have done something so long, I assume it is clear in the rules, and forget I never explained myself. :\

    Thanks for pointing this out, and I will do what you suggest! 🙂

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