Blades of Gothica

After a year of hard work, my FitD game is currently being thoroughly playtested. The game is now available via the link below. If you’re interested in a game that features…

-an ultra-gothic and original setting
-a host of historical personalities from our world
-lots of political drama, intrigue and backstabbing
-and PCs equipped with powerful, supernatural abilities

…have a look on the website and give me some feedback.

I’ve worked hard on giving this FitD game a very personal spin, with quite a few tweaks while staying faithful to the BitD core mechanics. The SRD is completely re-worded and includes a 5-page rules summary.

Updates will follow.

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Warrior women like Joan of Arc and pirate queens like Ching Shii have broken into the sphere of war reserved for men; Einstein tore down the fabric of what we believed was a linear reality, while the suffragettes took on the most powerful institution in history: patriarchy. Socrates and Darwin dared to question the existence of gods, and Alexander the Great conquered the entire known world as a young man; Julius Caesar forged antiquity’s greatest empire out of the blood of thousands, while Cleopatra and Spartacus each rebelled against that all-powerful empire in their own way. All of these vastly different people had something in common: They were anomalies in our world. Misfits. Deviants. People who defied social contracts, who questioned moral dogmas, the powers that be, and even reality itself; who broke every law and restriction that mankind tried to impose on them. And so did Napoleon, Nietzsche, Rasputin, Hannibal, King Charlemagne, the spy Mata Hari, Da Vinci, Plato and Freud, Amelia Earhart, women burnt as witches, rebellious prostitutes and many more. Today, all of them reside in one city – Gothica!

When people die, they leave this world. What happens to them next (if anything at all) is unknown. But the multiverse is not without irony and it chose to punish those deviants, who dared to question the natural order, by preserving their souls and sending them to… well, a special place: the pocket-dimension of Gothica. A city in a desert, dominated by black pyramids and gothic skyscrapers, where angels bleed tears of blood, and the Grey Storm and Shade Night terrorize the citizenry. A place best described as gothic, purgatorial limbo.

Here, these thousands of extraordinary historical figures struggle for control of their city. Most of them desperately try to create a world better than the one they left behind. They dream of superior systems of governance, but they cannot agree on how to best rule themselves. Thus, chaos and despair reign supreme.

Gothica is always ripe for civil war as monarchs, democrats, technocrats, plutocrats, anarchists, fascists, satanists, the New Theists, and rebels to every cause vie for power. The Battle Angels roam the skies in fire-spitting engines in a perpetual insurrection as the Guardians of the Gates try to restore balance. All the while, an apocalyptic menace from outside threatens to doom the city of doom. The ruling political factions are too busy with their own petty infighting to pay any mind to what’s coming from beyond the city walls. Instead, they hire cabals to carry out missions to undermine each other. As a member of such a cabal, you negotiate for peace, investigate the terrors and try to be the smart one for the greater good – or you cut throats, build armies, plan heists, sabotage, conspire and manipulate till tensions boil over and you’ve started that civil war yourself.

Welcome to Gothica!

In Blades of Gothica you get to play Arbitrators, Demolishers, Guardians, Reapers, Shadewalkers, Stitchers, and Stringers, which you customize by choosing from a multitude of abilities as well as one supernatural ability that allows you to fly, blank minds, command the darkness, dream of the future, climb like a spider, drink blood for its life essence, manipulate gravity or people’s dreams, corrupt flesh, merge with the shadows, spew spiders, and many much more disturbing ones. Come together with your fellow players to make up a cabal of Agitators, High Society infiltrators, Militants, Seekers, or Sewer Rats to partake in Gothica’s infinite power struggle.

Create your own Deviant

Meet historical figures now corrupted

Resist the psychosphere of dread

Choose political factions to support or betray

And survive in the deadly chasms of a city of horrors

Check out what Gothica and its citizens might look like on my pinterest board:

This 260-page document contains:

  • The Forged-in-the-Dark rules for exciting, dangerous storytelling-focused games adapted for Gothica’s murderous political arena
  • A truly original setting with detailed descriptions of Gothica’s architecture, weird places, its factions, their ideologies, and heroes and villains from real-world history
  • 150+ ideas for missions, campaigns and scenarios for wars
  • 7 Character Types with over 70 abilities
  • 5 Cabal Types
  • 86 supernatural abilities that make your character unique
  • Tips for GMs for how to run campaigns with as little prep work as possible, including optional rules for using tarot cards in your game and ways to enter people’s dreamworlds
  • A series of apocalyptic menaces threatening the city, some quite unusual

Depending on where you live, you’re hopefully getting to enjoy face-to-face roleplaying again soon.

Here’s a teaser from Blades of Gothica, which I’m currently running - an excerpt from the introduction describing Gothica’s themes:

Thematically, Blades of Gothica is not about technology or magic; it’s about politics, intrigue, philosophy, morality and about the gothic. The gothic signi-fies the broken minds and hearts, the dark ruins of things that were once beautiful and have now been lost, a perpetual gloom. The gothic’s ruined cathedrals, graveyards, grotesque statues, the gar-goyles, the asylums of the insane, the an-gels with broken wings who cry tears of blood are merely a reflection of the what is broken within the soul of every resident of Gothica – those people who have been cast out because they sought a better life than what their world had on offer; or who, in vain, tried to make the world a better place; those who have been shunned or punished, who have suffered welt-schmerz. Here in Gothica they are taught that it was all for naught; Earth cannot be saved, in the end there is only despair – or so it seems. Perhaps life in Gothica is just another test set by the multiverse to see whether the toughest and most am-bitious human beings can overcome the darkness and create a place of beauty and peace.
The gothic is also about repression. Our minds and hearts break because we’re not allowed to indulge our vices, our true hu-man nature, or because we refuse to ac-cept who we really are. In Gothica, you get to indulge your vices, but they won’t make you happy for long; you can attempt to live the life you’ve always desired, but it may be a life short-lived. The gothic shows you the beauty in the ugly, the sub-lime in the terror. Here, passion and mel-ancholia are lovers forever intwined.
In Blades of Gothica, the players get to play women and men as broken as every-one else, yet still infused with a spark of hope in their hearts as they partake in the political struggle to either better the city of doom or to find happiness and riches for themselves:
The Arbitrator craves human connection, the Demolisher recognizes the beauty in destruction and ruin, the Guardian tries to save whoever’s not yet lost, the Reaper has succumbed to the eternal darkness and snuffs out the lives of her enemies (a mer-cy, really), the Shadewalker, meanwhile, has merged with that darkness and knows the wisest way through it, the Stitcher tries to fix what she can, body and mind alike, and the Stringer pulls the strings of those around her like the puppeteer that she is.
Blades of Gothica is anything but good-versus-evil. It is, more like our own world, a place where the majority of peo-ple try to be good, but no one can know for certain what good actually is.
You learn more about life in Gothica in Chapter V.

The people who live in Gothica come from all sorts of cultural and ethnic backgrounds from every age of human exist-ence. This melting-pot society quickly learnt two things: Firstly, the city can only exist peacefully if people allow each other to live according to their own values. Sec-ondly, all values that they have brought with them must be arbitrary. In the origi-nal world, every culture had their own set of values and moral codes, their own gods and political systems, so how could any-one possibly claim to have been raised correctly, to adhere to the correct values and codes, to have been brought up believ-ing in the real gods? After all, the reason why destiny brought them to Gothica was the fact that they themselves had already questioned many of their culture’s rules. Gothica’s citizenry is therefore unusually open-minded, and people believe that eve-ryone may live their life any way they choose as long as they don’t infringe upon the liberty of others. But there is one question that needs to be answered: How are they supposed to govern the city? Governance requires cooperation from people from every walk of life.
Many Defiants who arrive in Gothica spend the first couple of years feeling lost. There is no societal system in place here that teaches you what is real and unreal, right and wrong. Instead, you are exposed to a wide range of different ideologies. Some Defiants try out many different life-styles and study various philosophies be-fore they settle on what feels right for them. Over time, as the years and decades drag on, they become entrenched in the philosophy they have chosen for them-selves. The Defiants are still human, still feel and think like humans. Hence, they are forced to find a truth and to argue and even fight for their truth. The personal internal struggle becomes externalized and even the most open-minded Defiants find it difficult to allow people they fun-damentally disagree with to be in charge. This has led the citizenry to split up into many different political factions. Most Defiants either support the Egalitarians, the Rule of Queens, the Equalizers, the Technocrats, the New Theists and so on; few citizens are truly disinterested in Gothica’s politics for life in this city is too bleak to not care. These factions continuously vie for power; on the surface they try to appeal to supporters with clever arguments, but behind the scenes they use every dirty and bloody trick to get ahead.
Your game will most likely focus on these factions and their struggles for dominance. You choose sides and you switch sides. You will get involved in political intrigue, backstabbing, and conspiracies large and small. You will come across moral quandaries and ethical dilemmas. Often you can use either blades or tongues to solve these conflicts. […]
The Egalitarians are currently the most powerful faction. They believe in direct democracy, a system in which every single citizen who lives in Gothica gets to vote on who runs the city and what laws they want to pass. The governing body they have set up consists of five ministers who are each responsible for a number of issues, anything from defence to rubbish collection. The fact that everyone is equal and could potentially be in charge has gained broad appeal among the public.
However, democracy is not without its flaws: The legislative process is particu-larly slow, though in wartime (and it is approaching) swift decision-making is needed. Many voters are badly informed, which bears the risk of the system becom-ing corrupted by those who don’t believe in democracy or equality. Educating the whole population properly costs a lot of money and its institutions will always be accused of indoctrination. And even if the public have agreed on democracy being the best way to govern a city, there is still an infinite number of issues to argue over: How much should the government inter-vene in business and private matters? How high should taxes be? And so on. Finally, there is the problem that plenty of people will lie to the public to get elected. In the words of a prominent technocrat: “Democracy is an utter mess with good intentions.” If the Egalitarians don’t figure out how to solve these problems, their reign might soon come to an end.
The Rule of Queens is an assembly of monarchs from history, chaired by Cleopatra herself, who are trying to convince the public of the benefits of a non-hereditary monarchy. In times of crisis, they hold much favour with the public.
The Technocrats believe that not just anyone should get to govern, but only the best and brightest. What else could lead to prosperity in this god-forsaken city?
The New Theists are no proper theists. Religion has been panned by most Defi-ants, even by those who arrived here be-lieving in their gods. Once you’ve stayed in Gothica long enough, it’s difficult to believe that the universe has really been created by an almighty, good being. The New Theists, however, try to sell a reli-gion that they have deliberately made up. They believe Gothica would fare better if everyone followed a better, fairer, albeit dogmatic religion.
The Equalizers are opposed to all of the above. They are anarchists, and by that they don’t mean that all laws and rules should be done away with; they believe Gothica should get rid of hierarchy. There are still (very liberal) laws and rules everyone must abide by, but no one is more powerful than the other.
The Plutocrats, meanwhile, don’t care for the public’s wellbeing. At least, that is what almost every other faction argues. The Plutocrats say they care about Gothi-ca’s economic prosperity; economic pros-perity is all you need for a happy popu-lace. They are the most distrusted of the powerful factions because they are filthy rich and believe to be entitled to their wealth.
The Fascists are a small, dim-witted political actor steadily climbing the ladder of power.
But not all gangs seek to take control of Gothica. The Divine are a group of wom-en wronged by patriarchy who have gone on a morally problematic killing spree. The Battle Angels, who rule the skies on metal fire-machines, rebel against every-one and everything after they’ve illegally taken over an entire city district to protect the poor. The Guardians of Gates are the valiant and politically neutral protectors of the city walls and the inner peace. Sewer Rats is a name given to underground criminal enterprises; they steal, threaten and murder their way through Gothica caring only about themselves. Blood Angels are individuals who have Fallen from Grace; crazed killers who lurk in dark corners, waiting to get their claw-like hands on foolish passers-by. No one knows what the Ghost Society is really up to or whether it’s real at all.
All of these factions are described in de-tail in Chapter VI.
What you get to do
This is the setting where your adventures take place. All of these factions are com-peting for dominance. Some use powerful words, clever political schemes and in-trigue to get what they want, others use violence, openly or not – and any faction may hire a daring Cabal. The PCs work as a team in what is called a Cabal. The factions may ask your Cabal to carry out assassinations, bribe or blackmail the powerful, infiltrate or spy on political opponents, acquire mighty weapons or ancient artefacts, investigate murders and other crimes committed against them, treat with other factions, make peace or provoke a war, guard political exponents, seek lost knowledge, hunt down trouble-some Sewer Rats and Blood Angels, make sinister conspiracies public, consort with the powerful in grand ball rooms, cam-paign for the next election, defend the guilty and innocent in court using smart argumentations, keep rogue militiamen in check, start or squash riots, and defend the city against the enemy from outside. Or whatever else the GM comes up with; there’s a long list of Mission ideas in Chapter VII.
Blades of Gothica allows you to play de-tectives solving crimes, criminals making a name for themselves, political activists defending what they believe in, adventur-ers braving the disgusting city sewers in-fested with worse things than rats, manip-ulators playing the city’s high society, thieves planning the biggest heist the city has ever seen, politically savvy orators trying to change the city, philosophers designing the perfect system of govern-ance, a street gang starting a rebellion in the name of anarchy, scientists devising artefacts than can bridge the worlds. Goth-ica can be anything you want it to be.