Gothic Tales

         "Is he a ghoul or a vampire?" I mused. I had read of such hideous incarnate demons. And then I set myself to reflect how I had tended him in infancy, and watched him grow to youth, and followed him almost through his whole course; and what absurd nonsense it was to yield to that sense of horror. "But where did he come from, the little dark thing, harboured by a good man to his bane?" muttered Superstition, as I dozed into unconsciousness. And I began, half dreaming, to weary myself with imagining some fit parentage for him; and, repeating my awaking meditations, I tracked his existence over again, with grim variations; at last, picturing his death and funeral: of which, all I can remember is, being exceedingly vexed at having the task of dictating an inscription for his monument, and consulting the sexton about it; and, as he had no surname, and we could not tell his age, we were obliged to content ourselves with the single word, "Heathcliff." That came true: we were. If you enter the kirkyard, you'll read on his headstone, only that, and the date of his death.
(Wuthering Heights, Chapter 34, by Emily Bronte, 1850)

         Welcome to Oneiros, a Gothic fantasy role-playing game. This game is designed around the atmosphere of Gothic romance and horror, as represented in the novels of Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe, M.L. Lewis, and Bram Stoker. The fantasy aspect of the world is the cosmology centered on dreams, and the existential doubt that flows from this. The historical Gothic tale has many elements, but a "monster" is far from central to them. The central Gothic feature is the castle (hence the name) or remote manor.

         The remote and ruined castle with its antique courts, deserted chambers, pictured windows that exclude the light, haunted galleries amid whose mouldering gloom is heard the rustle of an unseen robe, a sigh, a hurried footfall where no mortal step should tread; the ancient manor, hidden away in the heart of a pathless forest, a home of memories of days gone before when bright eyes glanced from casement and balcony over the rich domain, the huge-girthed oaks, the avenues and far-stretching vistas, the cool stream winding past the grassy lawns, but now tenanted only by a silver-haired retainer and his palsied dame; the huge fortress set high upon some spar of the Apennines, dark machicolated battlements and sullen towers which frown o'er the valleys below, a lair of masterless men, through whose dim corridors prowl armed bandits, whose halls ring with hideous revelry or anon are silent as the grave; the lone and secret convent amid the hills, ruled by some proud abbess whose nod is law, a cloister of which the terraces overlook vast precipices shagged with larch and darkened by the gigantic pine, whose silences are only disturbed by the deep bell that knolls to midnight office and prayer.

But most of all, Oneiros is about DREAMS. Dreams are quite literally the stuff of existance is this world, and one's life in dreams is just as important as one's life in the waking world, if not moreso.


Reading List

The Gothic novel was established in 1765 with Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto. There are many developments from these roots, however.

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca
Jackson, Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House
Lewis, M.L. The Monk (1796)
Radcliffe, Ann. Mysteries of Udolpho
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein
Stevenson, Robert Lewis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Stoker, Bram. Dracula
Wells, H.G. The Island of Dr. Moreau

John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Sun Nov 10 10:33:53 2002