Royalists, Roundheads, and Witchcraft (Oh My!)

One of the next books on my production schedule is a horror game set during the English Civil War. The title reveal will happen in the coming week, after I’m absolutely certain that it’s free and clear and hasn’t already been used. It’s meant to be more of a traditional roleplaying game than Revelations in Cold Iron or Starlight Manifesto. You fight evil witches, demons, spirits and specters, vampires and werewolves. For a setting that’s right in the middle of a major political upheaval, it’s got the least amount of political commentary of any game that I’ve worked on recently.

This is why I build my games on a protagonist/antagonist axis, rather than a good/evil one. The players can pick a faction that they belong to, and spin stories out from there. If you want to play Parliamentarians fighting against Charles I and his assertion of the divine right of kings, with supernatural elements in the background, have at it. You can be a Cavalier and defend the monarchy, and can play that. If you want to ignore the wars and just battle evil witches, or be a white witch or a Satanic witch trying to survive, that’s in there. I’m not going to judge, I just hope people tell great stories and have fun.

The one thing I’m actively avoiding is the Anglican-versus-Catholic thing. We’re well past Henry VIII at the time of the English Civil War period, and have a way to go before the Protestant Ascendancy, but there’s still religious tension at the time. While it’s easy to go high concept with “monarchy bad” or “rebellion bad”, or play “witches are evil” against “not all witches”, I think the subtlety and nuance of diagreement over religious dogma is probably pushing the envelope a bit too far for a tabletop game. And I say this as the person who wrote a game where magickal antifa battle corporate oligarchy with the serial numbers of the real world only lightly filed down.

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4 thoughts on “Royalists, Roundheads, and Witchcraft (Oh My!)

  1. You’re going to do the english civil war and ignore religion? That’s some lame rug-sweeping, my dude.
    Check out England Upturn’d, it’s already got a lot of this covered.

    1. Obviously not sweeping it under the rug – the whole basis for opposing witchcraft is religious. Charles I asserted the divine right of kings. It’s a horror game, and a lot of horror stems from religious themes. But when it comes to play modes, I’ll set things up so you can play Roundheads vs. Cavaliers or vice-versa, or witch hunters vs witches or vice-versa, but I’m not going to set up a Protestant vs. Catholic play mode. It’s a *game* and that seems like crossing a line from “potentially fun” to “bigoted and hateful”. It’s not like Revelations in Cold Iron where the politics are largely allegorical and the point of play is cathartic.

      As for this being ground already covered, see the hundreds of fantasy games that exist in spite of D&D being an 800 pound gorilla. There are many fiction and non-fiction books covering witchcraft or the English Civil War. There should always room for another voice, “my dude”.

  2. The PvC conflict is already there by virtue of the setting and historical era. If someone wants to shine a huge spotlight on it, they already can simply because it’s the English Civil War. It’s perfectly fine to acknowledge the conflict without focusing on it.

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