Jumping straight in without further ado, Chapter 1: Heroic Life presents new options for Colonial Gothic characters. The new skills are mostly ones to enhance background, new appropriate ways in which the character can earn his living or pursue an area of knowledge that interests him. Still, you never know when a particular snippet of information or the ability to do something others cannot may come in handy during the course of an adventure.
There are also rules options, for example in the core rules each character gets one action per round, period. If you'd prefer more, a suggestion is offered whereby you use the Nimble stat to determine how many actions each character has per round. Then there are rules governing the use of books to aid a character in what he is doing... and they can also be used as part of the story you are telling. The chapter rounds off with a list of books - some real and some invented - which characters might encounter, and the benefits they can gain from studying them.
Chapter 2: Independence looks at the political situation, with a skilful blend of real and imagined history (unfortunately marred by the need for a thorough proof-read). Intrigue both magical and mundane weaves a fascinating thread through what you thought you knew about history from Elizabethan England on to the early Colonies through to the Revolutionary period in which the game is set.
And so on to Chapter 3: The Shot Heard 'Round The World. This is a more detailed look at events past and present in Florida, Louisiana, Canada, and the Caribbean. For each location, there is not only history (both real and secret) but notes on adventure possibilities.
Next, things take a more mystical turn with Chapter 4: Alchemy and Magic. This begins with a brief history of alchemy and the state of the art in the 1770s, including leading practitioners in the New World. Extensive rules are provided for those characters who wish to practise alchemy, giving an excellent feel of this quasi-scientific search for truth... or its more mundane uses such as making soap, perfumes, dyestuffs and ink (a good way for an alchemist to fund his more esoteric research if he hasn't got a patron!). This is followed by a selection of new Rituals for magic-using characters to attempt.
Chapter 5: Societates Occultae explores the various societies that the characters might wish to join, or amongst whom patrons (or enemies!) may be found. Most are associations of people who share a political view or who are interested in a particular area of learning... and there are those which are somewhat more covert, seeking recruits amongst like-minded souls by word of mouth rather than a poster in the pub! Those dedicated to the study of esoterica such as alchemy or magic fall into this last category. This chapter is full of ideas: adventure hooks, sample societies and more. Herein is the game version of the Templars, the Inquisition, Freemasons, Rosicrucians and several others.
Not all the opposition walks on two legs, and Chapter 6 is a Bestiary of creatures divided into Mundane, Spirit or Infernal. A werewolf, by the way, is as Mundane as a bear... both are natural inhabitants of this world, you see, while the others are not.
The book rounds out with a bibliography - to access much of this you'll need a good library and probably an interlibrary loans service to track them down! - and some fine period maps. Overall, this is a fascinating collection of information, ideas and new rules to enhance your Colonial Gothic game, if you play it regularly, get it!
Return to Colonial Gothic: Secrets page.
Reviewed: 11 May 2008