|Jonny Lee Miller as Lord Byron in Byron|
(Pretty much the best real-life example of a Minor Dark Secret.)
Dark Secret [Minor or Major]
Your character has a skeleton in his closet: a secret so reprehensible that its revelation will destroy his place in society or even turn him against his closest allies!
The chances of a Dark Secret being revealed increase the longer the secret is kept. At the beginning of each session, the player should draw a card from the Action Deck. The secret is revealed at Novice Rank if a Two of Clubs is drawn, at Seasoned if the Two through Ten of Clubs is drawn, and at Veteran or higher is any Club is drawn. Blood (and other nastiness) will out.
A Minor Dark Secret is something so revolting it offends even the hero’s allies in the revolution (so belonging to a secret society is not a Dark Secret). This could be grave-robbing (particularly prevalent amongst the Zunft von Hohenheim), incest, a mad spouse locked in an attic, murder (or being the child of a murderer), necromancy, necrophilia, or any other suitably shocking Gothic twist. Revelation of a Minor Dark Secret results in a permanent -4 penalty to Charisma.
Once revealed, a player may spend an Advance to buy off the Hindrance. This reflects a period of self-sacrifice and hard work during which the hero attempts to redeem himself. The GM could run this as a game session or ask the player to narrate an Interlude.
Revelation of a Major Dark Secret, on the other hand, removes the character from play as the hero’s horrifying secret turns him against his own cabal. Major Dark Secrets include secretly being a changeling (common amongst the Clan O’Naill), being a werewolf or other were-creature (Ananzi’s Web and the Wild Hunt), being the star-spawn of some eldritch horror (Bluestocking Society and Starlight Children), or being a vampire’s thrall and a spy for the king all along. The GM can allow the player to run the character’s escape from justice (providing appropriate character stats for the session) but the character becomes an NPC if it escapes its vengeful cabal.
To compensate for the particular harshness of Dark Secret, the Minor version of the Hindrance is worth 2 points at character creation and the Major version of the Hindrance is worth 4.
Design Note – The Gothic Origins of Dark Secret
The great majority of “Gothic” role-playing games are more accurately described as “action-horror,” taking their inspiration more from the motion pictures of Hammer Films rather than the Gothic novels of the 18th and 19th centuries. The King is Dead itself is knowingly guilty of emphasizing the adventurous side of battling vampires.
Dark Secret is a deliberate effort to balance the scales, introducing some of the sense of transgression and personal horror that fuels the earliest Gothics. Just as it is expected that most player characters in Savage Worlds will have a full complement of Hindrances, so it is encouraged that every character in The King is Dead have some powerful internal struggle. In order to make this Hindrance more attractive to players, the bonus points received from it are double those of other Hindrances.
Dark Secret will not be appropriate for all gaming groups, and players and GMs should discuss its inclusion in the campaign. Some Game Masters may find the “death” of a character with the Major version of Dark Secret too harsh; they may allow the player to buy off the Hindrance (after it has been revealed) with two Advances at the end of a harrowing tale of rebellion against the character’s hidden masters. Such characters will certainly earn the wrath of an Enemy [Major].
Whether the player knows the nature of the character’s Dark Secret before it is revealed is entirely up to player. Some players will enjoy working in hints of a Dark Secret they know in advance, while others will enjoy being surprised by the revelation. GMs and players should discuss this at character creation. Random Dark Secrets tables are included with each secret society.*