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Monday, November 5, 2012

Regency/Gothic is dead! Long live a gothic Regency!

I've been struggling for months to fashion a Jane Austen-inspired Savage Worlds setting just to prove it could be done.  Since Savage Worlds settings settings are always "X + Y" mashups -- like 50 Fathoms' "Pirates of the Caribbean meet Pirates of Dark Water" -- I decided to try to pair Regency Romance with Gothic Horror.

I have not been successful.

I just can't wrap my brain around a way to mix these genres together.  Yes, most of the classics of Gothic literature were written during the Regency or late Georgian period (Frankenstein and Melmoth the Wanderer for instance) but that doesn't mean the themes and tropes of the genres work together.  There's a reason Northanger Abbey mocks the Gothic instead of embracing it.

While the "Thornshire" setting gave me some decent hooks to build a game world around, I also realized I was unconsciously repeating much of what already exists for Savage Worlds in the Rippers campaign setting.  I want to create something new, not merely imitate what others have done better.  I also want to find a way to make the social interaction that is the heart of Regency Romance a central element of the setting; fighting supernatural secrets separates the PCs from their society instead of integrating them.  "Thornshire" works as a duet campaign for me and Robin, but it fails as a model for an ongoing setting.

(Also, it turns out I hate Gothic novels.  I find the classics of the genre are nigh-unreadable.)

For this reason, I'm turning back to an alternative setting I proposed way back when and going with a mashup of the Arthurian legend and the Regency.  In essence, it will be a lightly fantastic alternate history where Arthur's daughter Melora (an obscure figure from Irish Arthuriana) rallied the Britons after Camlann and forged a peace with the Anglo-Saxons that allowed their culture to integrate more of the ways of Celts and Romans.  History proceeds in much the familiar fashion, but the Regents of Albion all hold their power in the name of the once and future king.  Women have greater power in society, magic is present but not prevalent, faeries lurk in the forests, and swords are still the preferred weapon for duels.  Now Regent Geraint III has fallen mad and Albion faces an unprecedented double regency.  With war on the Continent and strife at home, will the idyll of Albion society be shattered?

Ironically, I think that mixing in the Arthurian elements will actually enable a more Gothic setting.  The Gothic, after all, was an attempt to infuse the fantastical world of medieval romance with the psychology of the modern novel and so many of the Gothics used a medieval setting.  By embracing an alternate history, I can mix a lot more corrupt monks and ruined castles into the Savage Tales and Plot-Point Campaign.    

There’s a small sub-genre of Regency fantasies published in the last couple of decades.  The most significant of them is the highly-praised Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke but there are others like Andre Norton and Rosemary Edghill’s “Carolus Rex” books and Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s “Kate and Cecelia” trilogy.  The Kate and Cecelia novels were a big inspiration in starting the whole Savage Worlds/Jane Austen concept in the first place, so it’s fitting that I come back to that example. 

I’m already feeling a rush of inspiration and enthusiasm, so much so that Bandits of El Camino Real is now on indefinite hold.  Once I’ve got a player package put together (which won’t be until I get a new printer sometime over the holidays), I might even see if I can talk my players into chucking aside D&D Next.  Yeah, this really motivates me in a way that the Gothic concept never did.  Now I just need a title…

I guess I’ll have to use “Regency/Arthuriana” for now.

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