The Darkest Night

Or, a Gothic Hack of John Harper’s Lady Blackbird by Jack W. Shear Prologue
You and your companions awake amidst the fetid dampness of a dungeon cell. You have been trapped here, buried prematurely, for a week. Every day your mysterious, hooded jailer comes to shove stale bread and drink through the gap in the steel door of your prison. You don’t know why you’re being kept here or to what ends you’ve been disposed of in this God-forsaken place. But you are not content to die forgotten and abject. You will struggle to free yourself from bondage and seek to learn the identity of your obscure persecutor. How will you escape the descending hand of sorrow? What dangers lie outside the walls of your dank cell? Who is behind this nefarious plot to inter you within the walls of a ruined monastery? Your jailer approaches—what will you do?

Most importantly, this hack would not be possible without John Harper’s Lady Blackbird RPG. For the rules of the game, please see John Harper’s Lady Blackbird:
This document is a “hack” of the Lady Blackbird game: it utilizes the same rules, but substitutes different locations, scenarios, characters, and aesthetic conventions for those found in the original game.

Literary Inspirations
Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron, Sophia Lee’s The Recess, Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, Lord Byron’s Manfred, John Polidori’s The Vampyre, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer, Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland, Edgar Allan Poe’s short fiction, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan, H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast.

Cinematic Inspirations
Black Sunday, Brotherhood of the Wolf, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, The Company of Wolves, The Curse of the Demon, The Devil’s Backbone, The Haunting, The Horror of Dracula, The of House of Dark Shadows, The Innocents, Nosferatu, Ringu, Sleepy Hollow, Suspiria, A Tale of Two Sisters.

Gaming Inspirations
Call of Cthulhu, Orrosh (Torg), Ravenloft (D&D), Warhammer FRP.

Genre-appropriate Names
Male: Abel, Abraham, Ambrosio, Armand, Augustus, Bram, Caleb, Charles, Conrad, Edgar, Edward, Frederick, Giovanni, Howard, Johann, Jonas, Lorenzo, Malachi, Manfred, Mircea, Montague, Nicholas, Ormond, Oscar, Robert, Roderick, Samuel, Siegfried, Silas, Theodore, Victor, Vladimir, Wayland Female: Abigail, Adeline, Angelica, Ann, Antonia, Charlotte, Clara, Daphne, Eleanor, Elena, Elizabeth, Emily, Erzbet, Evelina, Hester, Isabella, Jane, Joanna, Julia, Justine, Katherine, Laura, Lucretia, Louise, Lydia, Marilyn, Mary, Matilda, Mina, Minerva, Rebecca, Rhea, Rosalind, Sophia, Victoria, Violetta

Character Archetypes:
Allow the players to choose which character they will be playing from the following Gothic archetypes.

Dispossessed Noble
The forgotten heir of a noble house Traits Aristocratic Birth Etiquette, Dance, Educated, History, Connections Athletic Climbing, Fencing, Swordplay, Duels, Pistols Charm Charisma, Empathy, Compassion, Command, Presence, Servants, Nobles Reputation Fearless, Reckless, Deadly, Heroic, Trustworthy Keys Key of the Paragon As a noble, you’re a cut above the common man. Hit your key when you demonstrate your innate superiority or the strength of your bloodline. Key of the Dispossessed You have been disinherited or have had your birthright stolen from you. Hit your key when you take action to restore your rightful title or property. Key of Vengeance You are driven to seek revenge against those responsible for your disinheritance. Hit your key when you pursue your revenge at the expense of helping others. Secrets Secret of Noble Blood Once per session, you can keep your pool dice when you succeed (so go ahead and use them all.) Secret of Obvious Virtue Once per session, you can re-roll a failure involving your physical prowess.

Veiled Stranger
A mysterious agent pursuing an unknown agenda Traits Sly Crafty, Sneaky, Bluff, Disguise, Deception, Shadows Perceptive Insightful, Aware, Traps, Liars Hidden Knowledge History, Weaknesses, Mysteries, Arcane, Folklore, Religion Resilient Iron Will, Tough, Relentless, Escape Keys Key of the Impostor You are disguised, passing yourself off as a mysterious stranger. Hit your key when you obscure your true identity or motives. Key of the Mission You have a mission that you keep secret from your companions. Hit your key when you take an action that is a step toward fulfilling your mission. Key of Vengeance You believe someone has wronged you in some way. Hit your key when you take an action to satisfy your desire for vengeance. Secrets Secret of Tenebrous Egress Once per session, you can disappear into the shadows and escape from any scene or confrontation. Secret of Dreadful Lore Once per session, you can re-roll a failure that involved the Hidden Knowledge trait.

Knight Errant
A devoted champion tormented by fleshly desires Traits Veteran of War Combat tested, Brutal, Fearless, Strong, Weaponry, Riding Protector Awareness, Defend, Disarm, Restrain, Carry, Delay Saintly Religious lore, Faith, Presence, Inspiring prayer Steadfast Honorable, Reliable, Oath-keeper, Brave, Tough Keys Key of the Warrior You are driven to test your mettle in battle. Hit your key when you do battle with a worthy or superior foe. Key of the Guardian You have sworn to protect one of your companions. Hit your key when you protect that character from harm. Key of Lust Your great weakness is debauchery and licentiousness. Hit your key when you give in to temptation instead of pursuing your knightly virtues. Secrets Secret of the Hospitaler Once per session, re-roll a failure when protecting someone else. Secret of the Templar Once per session, re-roll a failure in mortal combat.

Beguiling Enchanter
A seductive hedonist with the power to conqueror the wills of others Traits Sly Deceitful, Bluff, Artful, Lies, Distractions Charm Attractive, Seductive, Charisma, Temptation, Banter Enchantment Sorcery, Manipulation, Emotions, Mind, Illusion, Dreams Witchery Arcane, Herbs, Poisons, Wilderness survival, Beasts, Fey Keys Key of Domination You are driven to assert your power over others by bending them to your will. Hit your key when you convince someone to do something that is against their best interests. Key of the Outcast You have been disowned by society because of your witching ways. Hit your key when your status as an outcast causes complications or is important in a scene. Key of Lust Your great weakness is debauchery and licentiousness. Hit your key when you give in to temptation instead of helping your companions. Secrets Secret of Salomé Once per session, re-roll a failure related to your personal magnetism. Secret of the Unseelie Court Once per session, you can call on a fell creature of the Unseelie Court to perform a service for you.

Cunning Bandit
A condemned criminal who skirts the line between loyalty and selfishness Traits Fingersmith Quiet, Sneak, Hide, Dexterous, Locks, Traps, Darkness, Thievery Tricky Quick, Deadly Knife, Tumbler, Escape, Contortionist, Ambush Survivor Tough, Run, Scrounge, Endure, Intimidate Underworld Haggle, Deception, Forgery, Hideouts Keys Key of Greed You are driven to accumulate wealth. Hit your key when you steal something important or score a big payoff. Key of Fraternity One of your companions has saved you from the gallows. In turn, you have sworn an oath of friendship to that character. Hit your key when you show how deep that bond is. Key of Betrayal You are deeply self-interested. Hit your key when you abandon your companions to ensure your own safety or pursue your own ends. Secrets Secret of Concealment No matter how thoroughly you are searched, you always have a few key items with you. You can produce any common, simple item once per session. Secret of Reflexes Once per session, you can re-roll a failure when doing anything involving grace, dexterity, or quick reflexes.

Faustian Bargainer
A diabolic occultist who trades portions of his soul for earthly power Traits Infernal Wizard Sorcery, Demonology, Summoning, Pacts, Souls, Black magic Cunning Bluff, Trickery, Haggle, Deception, Sense motives, Silver tongue Forbidden Knowledge Arcane, History, Folklore, Research, Books Fallen Aristocrat Educated, Etiquette, Music, Dance, Languages Keys Key of Eldritch Learning You are in search of a rare, cursed tome. Hit your key when you take an action to reclaim that tome from dusty antiquity. Key of Power You desire power above all else. Hit your key when you pursue your own ascendancy over the safety and security of your companions. Key of the Tempter You like to make deals and trade favors. Hit your key when you bargain, make a new contact, or exchange a favor. Secrets Secret of Solomon’s Circle Once per session, you can summon an imp to do one act of service for you. Secret of Dark Lore Once per session, you can re-roll any failure related to sorcery.

Pious Cleric
A servant of the faith whose fervor is contested by alien desires Traits Compassion Empathy, Understanding, Soothing, Calming words Saintly Righteousness, Resolve, Self-sacrifice, Faith, Presence, Aura Bookish Theology, History, First aid, Languages, Folklore Orator Convincing, Censure, Command, Charisma, Hope, Inspiration, Rebuke Keys Key of the Vow You have made a personal vow as part of your religious commitments. Hit your key when your vow significantly impacts your decisions. Key of the Missionary Your faith requires you to come to the aid of all in need. Hit your key when you take action to protect the weak and less fortunate. Key of Lust Your great weakness is debauchery and licentiousness. Hit your key when you give in to temptation instead of pursuing your saintly virtues. Secrets Secret of Exorcism Once per session, you can use your sacred powers to drive out unclean spirits. Secret of the Holy Word Once per session you can re-roll any failure involving religious rhetoric.

Monster Slayer
A stalker of evil who will sacrifice everything to rid the world of abominations Traits Investigator Search, Deduction, Perceptive, Interrogate, Insight, Gather information Hunter Sneak, Camouflage, Wilderness survival, Track, Beasts, Traps Scientist Educated, Technology, Psychology, History Ex-Soldier Swords, Axes, Rifles, Tactics, Command, Rank Keys Key of the Commander You are accustomed to leading men in the hunt against creatures of darkness. Hit your key when you come up with a plan and give orders to make it happen. Key of the Obsessed You are driven to destroy unnatural beings. Hit your key when you take action against monsters instead of pursuing your companion’s best interests. Key of the Traveler You explore new places in your search for evil to root out. Hit your key when you share an interesting detail about a person, place, or thing or when you go somewhere new. Secrets Secret of Leadership Once per session, you can give someone else a chance to re-roll a failed roll by giving them orders or advice. Secret of Slaying Once per session, you can re-roll a failure while in combat against a supernatural foe.

Haunted Necromancer
A dabbler in the occult who crosses the boundary between life and death Traits Spiritualist Séance, Possession, Terrify, Divination, Ghost sight Necromancy Sorcery, Spirits, Ectoplasm, Summoning, Banishing, Cold, Reanimation Con Artist Guile, Deception, Convincing, Blather, Double talk Creepy Intimidate, Terrifying, Reputation, Morbid, Pale Keys Key of Greed You are driven to accumulate wealth. Hit your key when you steal something important or score a big payoff. Key of Fearlessness Death holds no terrifying mystery for you. Hit your key when you take action that is risky or reckless. Key of the Unquiet Grave You are charged with helping restless souls enter the afterlife. Hit your key when you take action to end the suffering of a ghost. Secrets Secret of the Spirit World Once per session you and one other person can travel through the ethereal world of the dead to teleport a short distance away. Secrets of Uncanny Sorcery Once per session you can re-roll any failure involving sorcery.

Places of Intrigue

The Ruined Monastery The lower levels of the ruined monastery are labyrinthine catacombs that hold many dire secrets. Some say that there is a library of occult tomes consigned to the dust of ages by the Vatican, others say that the corpses of a poisoned noble family have been hidden in a profane vault. It is whispered that a monstrous beast haunts the corridors of the monastery’s upper floors and that a ghostly woman in white has been seen at the window of the lightning-struck bell tower.

The Forest The forest is dense and primeval. Rumor has it that a bandit king makes his lair among the ancient trees. Venturing too far into the forest is ill-advised; wolves with burning red eyes have been known to beset the unwary traveler. Only the most foolhardy hunters know of secret paths through the ancient copses.

The Dark Castle No one knows who rules the castle at the foot of the mountains. It could be the lair of a mad king, a laboratory of scientist usurping the laws of God and nature, or domain of an undying lord with a thirst for more than just power. Perhaps your tormentor makes the castle his abode…and perhaps he has stolen away someone you love…and perhaps they are in the gravest danger if you do not rescue them in time.

The Old Road Strange things are said to happen at the crossroads of the Old Road. Will o’ the Wisps have been seen dancing in the distance, waiting to entrance the viewer. Folklore tells us that the Devil himself appears at midnight to strike strange, unutterable bargains with the desperate and damned. One often meets gypsies upon the Old Road; for a price, they will tell you what the future holds.

The Mountains A perpetual storm seems to haunt the sublime mountains beyond the castle. The crags are treacherous and few have returned to tell the tale of what lives amongst the snow-capped peaks. It is claimed that a coven of witches perform loathsome rites hidden from the eyes of god-fearing folk.

The Burial Grounds The broken headstones of the burial grounds tell the stories that its residents cannot. Local legend says that some of the stones are etched with an obscure cipher. One look into the worldweary eyes of the groundskeeper will tell you that he knows of terrible deeds that have been committed within the bounds of the sacred burial ground.

The Seaside Town All is well in town during the day, but at night a strange prowler lurks in the fog-shrouded streets —he’s carried off three defenseless people so far for unknown ends. A ship can be had to take you to the mainland, but devilish creatures lurk among the depths. The townspeople are a superstitious lot. Outsiders report feeling watched everywhere they go in town. In the annals of history it is said that the town once harbored a cult who worshipped a dreaming demon of the deep; some say that cult still survives to this day.

The Swamp The swamp is inhabited only by outcasts and vagabonds. On clear nights, the sound of drumming and ululating music can be heard from the sparse habitations of the swamp people. Sometimes, it is said, they raise the dead to act as their tireless servants.

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