The King is Dead: What does that mean?

What is The King is Dead?

The King is Dead is yet another attempt by me to write a game setting (heck, I've threatened to write this setting before).  It’s a Gothic revolutionary setting in an 18th century that never was; If D&D is “You play Conan, I play Gandalf. We team up to fight Dracula,” then The King is Dead is “You play Natty Bumppo, I play Casanova. We team up to win the French Revolution by fighting Dracula.” As I type this, I’m going to try to stat it up for both Honor + Intrigue and Savage Worlds, but I can’t guarantee how much in the way of stats there will even be. I expect more setting description than anything else.

The plan this time is to follow the examples of Planet Motherfucker and Accursed and put together some bloody scraps of meat that hopefully congeal into a whole setting.  I’m also writing to my own interests (pseudo-historical espionage and monster hunting) and the strengths of the systems (swashbuckling action and monster hunting), rather than trying to bend myself to the subject matter like By Light, By Night or the rules to the setting like Regency/Gothic (nor am I inventing rules like I would have to with Die, Daikaiju!). 

Why “Gothic revolutionary?”

I'm obsessed with the 18th century.  I love the freedom of the American frontier and the Golden Age of Piracy.  I love the sophistication of the salons and symphonies.  I love the clothes and the loose morals.  I love the wonderful possibilities of the Enlightenment, even if we're still fighting for some of the rights they dreamed up back then. 

I've also complained in the past that I loathe the aristocracy.  This is obviously part and parcel of enjoying stories of freebooters and frontiersmen, but it's also not incompatible with waxing rhapsodic over satin and lace.  The 18th century was also the heyday of such adventurers as Casanova and Cagliostro, the Chevalier D'Eon and the Comte de Saint Germain -- men who lived the high life as they bilked the aristocracy.  And, obviously, the French decided they didn't like their aristocracies anymore and did something about them.  Unfortunately, it got a teensy bit out of control.

I want to write a setting about con artists, conspirators, and outlaws so I need an excuse for the only sane course of action in this setting to be becoming a con artist, conspirator, or outlaw.  The aristocracy of 18th century France were pretty loathsome as a class, but they were still people with their own strengths and weaknesses.  There's no arguing that the relentless slaughter of the aristos during the Terror was a good thing, but it would be damned cathartic to play.

The way to make this work -- the way to give an inarguable justification for violent reprisal on a ruling class that pays no taxes and does no work -- is to literalize the metaphor and make those damned aristos actual bloodsucking monsters.  Hence vampires.

And if I'm going to have vampires, why not go all-out Gothic?  Why not a corrupt Church that preaches fealty to the vampires while working black magic in their cloisters and nunneries?  Why not landscapes of sublime grandeur -- dark forests and craggy mountains -- that cover the land?  Why not incest and murder and seduction?  The Gothic fiction was born in 1764 and the tropes of the genre fit revolution better than romance.   

What's with the German names?

I suck at French.  I took German in high school and it's my game so I'm going to use a language I like.

Also, Hammer Films.


  1. Topping the post with a picture from one of my favourite movies grabbed my attention, and I really like the idea. I've played in a SW game or two ran very similar to this idea, and had a ton of fun each time.

    And just to put something fun in front of, you might want to check out Scott Lynch's gentlemen Bastards series. Very much up your alley, and after a massive wait, the third one is due out in less than two months -

    1. I actually have _The Lies of Locke Lamora_ sitting on my bedside table waiting to be read because of your review.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts