Friday, December 16, 2011

Déjà vu: Scaring the Dickens out of Your Players: Ghosts of Albion

Here is my post for the Déjà Vu Blogfest.

This post was originally posted on December 19th 2009 and was viewed by what I could tell as many as 9 people since.  I felt it deserved another look due to the timing (it is close to the Anniversary of A Christmas Carol's publication) and now Ghosts of Albion is out in stores, so it is all a good fit.

Scaring the Dickens out of Your Players: Ghosts of Albion

On this day in 1843 Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, also known more simply as A Christmas Carol.

The story of Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts is now a timeless Christmas classic retold in prose, stage, film (the 1951 version with Alistair Sim is my personal favorite), even animation and various parodies, homage and pastiches.

Such is the timelessness of this tale that it is perfect fodder for a Christmas themed episode. Even it is good enough for Doctor Who it is good enough for us right. Given that is a quintessential English tale of ghosts in the early Victorian age then it is perfect for Ghosts of Albion.

Jacob Marley
Motivation: To walk the Earth for his sin of greed, warn Scrooge of his fate.
Creature Type: Restless Spectre
Life Points: 30
Drama Points: 1

Str: (2)
Dex: (2)
Con: (2)
Int: 4
Per: 3
Will: 4

Ability Scores
Muscle: (10) Combat: (0) Brains: 16
Qualities and Drawbacks: Attractiveness -1, Cursed, Ghost, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

Name Score Damage Notes
Deflect 19 - Magic defence action
Telekinesis 17 varies Effectiveness Str 5

Jacob Marley is the former business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. He had died seven years before on Christmas Eve and is now confined to Earth to pay for his sins of greed and not helping his fellow man. He wears the shackles of his sins in form of heavy chains attached to ledger books, money boxes and heavy keys.

Marley cannot be killed or dispatched by normal means. He is similar to a Poltergeist, but even the means to remove those troublesome spirits are not effective on him. Marley consequently will not attack, nor even reveal himself to others but Scrooge. Though anyone with Magic or Innate Magic will be able to see him and interact with him.


Zeitgeist is a German word meaning the Spirit of the Times, used to describe the general feeling or atmosphere of a particular period in time. In the Ghosts of Albion game Zeitgeist is quite literal. Each time can manifest as a spirit or ghost. This is not a ghost of someone that has passed as most spirits, but more of a collective consciousness given magical form. A Zeitgeist can have any power, quality or drawback that a ghost may have. Since they are more of reflection of a particular time a Zeitgeist also can't be destroyed, though many exist only under very specific conditions.

Ghost of Christmas Past
Creature Type: Zeitgeist
Life Points: NA
Drama Points: 5

Str: -
Dex: -
Con: -
Int: 5
Per: 6
Will: 5

Ability Scores
Muscle: NA Combat: NA Brains: 18

Qualities and Drawbacks: Archaic, Ghost, Manifest, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

The Ghost of Christmas Past appears to be both young and old at the same time. His hair is long and white, but his face is smooth. He speaks in a somewhat archaic manner.

This spirit shows their charge their memories of the past. A bitter old man like Scrooge is shown times when he was young and denied love from his abusive father and the loss of his sister. There are wonderful scenes in the 1951 movie with Scrooge and Marley that typify what this spirit does.

Ghost of Christmas Present
Quote: Come! You have never beheld the likes of me!
Creature Type: Zeitgeist
Life Points: NA
Drama Points: 5

Str: (4)
Dex: (2)
Con: (5)
Int: 5
Per: 6
Will: 5

Ability Scores
Muscle: NA Combat: NA Brains: 20

Qualities and Drawbacks: Ghost, Manifest, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

This spirit is the most living of the lot. He appears as large man wearing green robes. His image invokes comparisons to Father Christmas or even the Pagan Green Man or Winter King. Though his appearance can vary greatly from year to year. He tells Scrooge that he has over 800 brothers, implying that he will no longer exist after midnight on Christmas and next year there will be a new Ghost of Christmas.

His task is to show Scrooge what he is missing and what his own greed has wroght.

The Ghost of Christmas Present has two horrible companions with him. They represent the greatest sources of suffering in the world. A boy, Ignorance and a girl Want. The spirit warns Scrooge to beware them both but especially of the girl.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Creature Type: Zeitgeist
Life Points: NA
Drama Points: 5

Str: -
Dex: -
Con: -
Int: 4
Per: 4
Will: 7

Ability Scores
Muscle: NA Combat: NA Brains: 14

Qualities and Drawbacks: Chill of the Grave, Ghost, Manifest, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

This spectre is more horrifying than all the others. He is a grim Death-like figure shrouded in a robe and hood that never speaks but shows Scrooge visions of his future; the death of Tiny Tim, his own lonely death and callousness in which people view his passing.

Using the Ghosts in Your Story

Dickens used A Christmas Carol not only to pay some bills, but to address some serious social issues. The same set up can be used as a special Christmas episode in your on going game. The set up may seem a bit clichéd now nearly 170 years later, but they still work. The trick is not adding the Ghosts to your game, but figuring out the proper character or plot hook.

Keep in mind that as Directors you are not likely to get the same change of heart Scrooge had out of your characters, so instead focus on using the Ghosts to tell an important tale or show the characters a brief glimpse into their (possible) future.

A good example for a modern Cinematic game would be a demon hunter who is dedicated only to her mission ignoring family, friends and loved ones, in a sense becoming like the monsters she hunts. The Ghosts then in order show her what her life has been like in the past before her calling, what her friends and family are doing without her around, and then her grim and dark future. Too easy? Yeah, the future is likely to dark and grim regardless, but this where the twist comes in. Our demon hunter is still alive, but everyone she loves is either dead or lost to her. She finds that she is becoming less human (metaphorically speaking) and have more in common than the monsters she kills. Maybe she breaks into nest of vampires and they have set up a small Christmas tree and are giving each other presents. Sure the presents might be live kittens, but it is the thought that counts.

The purpose is to show our chosen demon hunter that without family, friends and even love, none of what she does matters. You can kill a 1,000 monsters, there is another 10,000 right behind him. Loved ones are often all you really have.

Merry Christmas!

Who else is doing this do over day?  See all the participants here:


Alison Miller said...

Not being a gamer, I must say this is the most fascinating and interesting post I've ever seen on the Christmas Carol! Loved it. And loved this line: You can kill a 1,000 monsters, there is another 10,000 right behind him. Loved ones are often all you really have.

Great post! Nice to "meet" you through the blogfest!

Ed Healy said...

I take my girls to see Scrooged, a musical rendition of Dickens' tale, every year. Even the rather tame treatment is pretty scary for them, at times.

Costuming, lighting, and sound go a long way to add the creep factor to any performance.

Dickens was a master, for sure.

April Plummer said...

I'm not a gamer either, but that was a pretty cool post. I've never seen anything so indepth. The Christmas Carol is a wonderful movie!

Lydia Kang said...

This was fascinating for another non-gamer, here.

Thanks so much for joining the Blogfest!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

It's been a L-O-N-G time since I played Dungeons and Dragons, but I can appreciate your ratings and summations of the characters! (I'd print this out and stick it in the back of my old Monster Manual, if I thought anybody was ever going to use it again ...)

Have to say, my favorite version of A Christmas Carol is the George C. Scott one.

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm a non-gamer too, but I enjoyed reading this! Interesting take on a timeless tale :)

DL Hammons said...

How weird is it that I'm watching the 1951 version of Christmas Carol as I'm reading your post?! Your post is definitely an interesting take on the story...and very timely! Thank you for re-posting it today! :)

farawayeyes said...

Hi Timothy,nice to meet you. As another non-gamer I was a bit confused at first, but am I glad I kept reading. Mr current WIP revolves around a ghost, but I was stuck, he didn't have enough purpose. Today, your post was the 'light bulb' I needed. Thanks! I'll be back.

They are real you know. I see them all the time. Well, maybe not all the time, but often enough.

Margo Kelly said...

Very interesting!! :)

I'm a new follower, visiting from the DejaVu Blogfest. Nice to meet you!

Pun Isaac said...

I really enjoyed this post. My one question about is is, should this be tagged "Christmas".

Timothy S. Brannan said...

It is now!