I want to run a game, but I actually, for once, don't have a system in mind. I'm looking for a good system, rules light to minimalist. Please recommend one, including why that system can best match the following synopsis.

A good system recommendation will include:

  1. How the mechanics can best meet this story idea
  2. How characters will be made
  3. Recommendations for any fixes necessary.

'Tis to create, and in creating live A being more intense, that we endow With form our fancy, gaining as we give The life we image Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgramage, third canto

The summer of 1808, Revolution and Romanticism are sweeping the world. The poet, the musician, the artist, and the revolutionary are in the vanguard of forging a new world out of the old. Drawing from both the Gothic novels of the era, with their dark aristocrats and decaying castles; and from the Romantic politics which saw the era as indicative of an age of crisis with the ancien regime collapsed and a chaos dominating European political and cultural life.

Beginning in the last decades of the 18th century, Romanticism has transformed poetry, the novel, drama, painting, sculpture, all forms of concert music (especially opera), and ballet. It was deeply connected with the politics of the time, echoing people's fears, hopes, and aspirations. The Romantic universe was expanding, evolving, becoming -- it was organic, it was alive. The Romantics sought their soul in the science of life, not the science of celestial mechanics. They moved from planets to plants. The experience was positively exhilarating, explosive and liberating -- liberation from the soulless, materialistic, thinking mechanism that was humanity.

Romanticism is the voice of revolution here at the beginning of the 19th century, and you are some of its most rigorous adherents.

And like all revolutionaries and romantics, occasionally you need a vacation. And this brings you to the shore of Lake Geneva where you will meet and change the face of the world forever.

The characters are all artists and philosophers. Some are rich; others require the patronage of one of society’s greats. All are ambitious and on the cusp of great success. The characters will start largely unaware of a wider, strange and weird world, filled with occult and supernatural dangers, but they shall become aware of it all too soon. The game will start at Lake Geneva as friends and acquaintances meet up. Some characters will know each other, others will only know of the others through their deeds and reputations. But al will quickly become friends. This is a crucial part of the game; the characters have to have reasons to like each other.

Then one night the characters will get together and tell each other ghost stories. Each of the players will receive several elements to build the story around, ones that will give thematic links to each. And then the characters go home, and that is when the setting gains its terror as each of their stories comes true. This would be handled as one-on-one sessions with the expectation that following that each character would write correspondence to the other character. And from that would come a reunion hat leads to a quest for answers, why are these horrible things happening now, after that night on Lake Geneva?

This game shall be a gothic period piece, concerned with the secret history of the years between the madness of revolution and the creation of the modern establishment. A crucial part of the play will involve the interaction between the characters and the choices they make as they build their world.


  • Tim Power, Stress of Her Regard
  • All the great Romantic poets and musicians, painters and occult mad men
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've been on the fence (often down-right antagonistic) about system recommendation questions. Many are too open ended, but I do have one, so I thought I might ask a more directed one and see how it foes. \$\endgroup\$ – anon186 Nov 5 '10 at 19:27

I recommend Annalise. The game is specifically built to evoke slowly unfolding horror with the characters as central victims. It can easily handle the ghost-story-telling aspect you mentioned. Its "Claims" mechanic can provide the sort of literary foreshadowing and poetry that a Byronic game demands.

Annalise offers nothing in terms of setting. You will supply that in play, with no prep required. Just find players who understand the gothic setting you desire (or prep them in the usual way).

Characters in Annalise are simple affairs: a name, a Vulnerability ("I am vulnerable because..."), a Secret ("No one knows that..."), and a few coins distributed across three traits (the third is Reserves). The rest of the character is defined in play.

Your "elements" and "thematic links" isn't explicitly handled by Annalise. That's a pretty specific requirement. However, you can handle it by just giving players this information before the game. If you want a little more mechanical "oomph," introduce the elements as pre-game Claims (a minor rules hack) or character Secrets.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Reading your answer about Annalise has made me want to go home and see if Hero's Banner would do what Jeremiah requests... \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Nov 5 '10 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gomad Ooh, I am curious about Hero's Banner. I'm a fan of his other game, Mars Colony. If it does fit here, I'd like to see how. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '10 at 22:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gomad Does it? \$\endgroup\$ – Pureferret Jan 19 '12 at 9:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Broken link- here is a better one rpggeek.com/rpg/626/annalise-stories-pain-hunger-redemption \$\endgroup\$ – user2617804 May 15 '15 at 22:02

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