Impressions of Death - 19th Century Mystery & Adventure

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Pellegrino, Jan 10, 2015.

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  1. Impressions of Death


    Sometimes death comes honestly. A ladder accidentally knocked or an allergy unknown. Even murder is not always any more complicated than a drunken brawl. More often than there are conspirators sinisterly plotting, there is a remorseful soul. Staged deaths and political assassinations? Bah! Spats between royalty and political fat-cats normally conclude over wine and tobacco. Blood is serious. Life has value. Murder is no small thing, and it is not always anything more than a petty men and sour words. Then again, not always is far from never.

    The year is 1887 and Madisonville will soon celebrate its bicentennial. Wine, ale, and rich meats came in by the crate from ports in New York City from lands unknown. People are humming with excitement. You too were rather giddy, but then tragedy struck. Before your festivities can begin, you now have a funeral to attend.

    The Premise

    Impressions of Death is set primarily in the late 19th century American Northeast. The characters in this game collect in a mysterious and bustling town called Madisonville because of a single common thread. Days before the bicentennial as the population prepares for a community wide celebration, a local printer is killed in cold blood. One way or another each character is connected to the printer and so they begin their journey to solving the mystery of his murder.

    As the game progresses location and time will become less rigid. Some events will require haste, others the passing of months, or perhaps even travel throughout the state, country, or world. The late 19th century is a time of invention too, so do not be surprised if you see glimpses of the future here and there. This story is adaptive, flexible, and will reward every bit of detective work the characters choose to put forth.

    The Setting

    Madisonville is a town about seven hours west from New York City by train. A humble place in comparison to esteemed locales such as the Big City, Madisonville is in fact a rather large, yet lesser known, place. Centuries old forests surround the town that are known to make a journey by foot or horseback rather ominous. That said, artists, inventors, and creators of all sorts flock to the town for the isolation the forest provides. In total, there are two ways into Madisonville. There is the railroad, which passes through the city center from New York City and leads to Lexington in the south, and then a less popular road frequented by bandits, highwaymen, and ignorant merchants.

    • The origins of the town is a rarely shared legend. In 1687, British settlers happened upon a Native village and in that same year pushed them out to the surrounding forests. Supposedly, the Natives remained there, hunting those who ventured into the wood and isolating them from other settlements. Children heard stories of the phantoms and ghouls in the dark forests, but this was no fantasy. Hunger and an unyielding fear gave birth to a madness so deep and unsettling that half the villagers took their own lives. And like that, the Natives disappeared, but legend has it that vengeful spirits still remain in the dark wood surrounding the village. The original name of the village is lost to time, but people called it the Village Maddened by Sin, then Madissin, and now, two centuries later, Madisonville.
    • The Village Maddened by Sin may have changed titles, but the fears of old still remain. Those familiar with Madisonville rarely wander into the forests surrounding the village. Till this day the youth hear stories of deadly phantoms lurking in the woods. Fear which once steered youths away still cause adults to tremble in their boots should they approach the forest's edge too long. Because of the origin story of the town, the phantoms of the wood are often described as spirits of the Native peoples killed over the land. Some have adopted an inherent fear of those with dark skin -- specifically natives -- often leading to a level of tension, alienation, and at times, violence.
    • Madisonville is host to a diverse and thoughtful people. Before the Civil War, freed and escaped slaves fleeing the south often passed through the town. The hospitality of the town soon became known, giving birth a relatively large non-white population. Their continued support throughout the war made the town a much needed haven as Kentucky to the south was torn apart. Twenty years have passed since the war ended. Due to a uniquely distant yet not location west of The City, Madisonville has become a haven not just for the oppressed, but for creatives, inventors, and others seeking solitude for their work. Visitors are often self-interested and villagers are highly tolerant, resulting in an ideal getaway free from judgement and criticism. In short, Maddened by Sin, perhaps, but only he without may cast the first stone.

    The Characters

    19th century Madisonville is a place of wonderment, isolation, and horror. Few outside of the immediate surroundings are privy to the very existence of the town, even fewer know are aware of how to even find the humble hamlet. Each character may boast vast differences. Some may be accomplished inventors seeking peace while drafting their next creation, while others could in fact be fugitives of the law. Lucky for all, Madisonville does not ask questions. What we know is that each character is somehow connected to Henry Parker, printer, cartoonist, and recently murdered.

    Characters may from come from a variety of lands and backgrounds. That said, everyone must somehow know Mister Parker, whether they are a long-time friend, a visiting pen pal, business associate, sibling, or whatever else you may dream up. The connection must exist be it fuelled by love, curiosity, or hatred, it simply must lead your character to wonder why.

    • Henry Parker was a skilled printer and political cartoonist up until his untimely demise. He was born in the southeast just over half a century ago to a wealthy estate. While Parker rarely spoke of his childhood, the tone of his work leads most to assume his progressive politics began in there. Whatever the case, there is little surprise as to why early childhood is a tender time for the printer.

      Parker appeared in Madisonville a sorry sight from all accounts. He was about ten, desperate, and alone. Some say sickness took his parents, while the more imaginative weave a tale of vengeful slave owners razing the estate. What is known is that Parker was taken in by a professor of literature from University of the City of New York (also known as New York University) on sabbatical. The professor provided for Parker and when the time came, the boy followed the professor, presumably, to New York City. Henry Parker returned to Madisonville an educated and wealthy man some thirty years later. In a short time he purchased and revitalized a small, defunct printing press, starting on his way of becoming Madisonville's most renown in his field.

      It is not known if Henry Parker married or had children. When he returned to Madisonville he was a quiet man who welcomed company, but kept most at a distance. He was not so much ambitious as practiced when he began his trade in town, suggesting during his time in New York that he experienced some level of success.

    • Albert is a Professor of Literature for the University of the City of New York. He studied in the United Kingdom before coming to the United States for unknown reasons. The university offered him employment in the mid-1830s where he has taught since. During his tenure, the professor has published an assortment of fictions built from American ideologies in light of the Civil War, as well as non-fictions exploring industrialism and the expansion of the young nation.

      Professor Parker took in a young Henry while on sabbatical in Madisonville. The two bonded in the mysterious hamlet and when his break came to a close, Parker offered the boy a home in New York City. Shortly after war broke out, Parker took another sabbatical, during which he all but disappeared. After nearly a year Henry and the professor returned to New York City.

      In his old age, Professor Parker continues to teach for the university. There has been no word of his attending his adoptive son's funeral -- it is possible he isn't even aware of his death.

    • Name: Your character’s name and any nicknames or aliases they may have.
      Date of Birth: Did you fight in the war that tore America in two or were you born afterwards -- perhaps somewhere in between?
      Origin of Birth: Where you are born could determine the attitudes and politics you were exposed to. A middle aged man who saw pre-war Georgia may think quite differently from a man from Pennsylvania, and even more from a lass from Paris!
      Sex: Witty comment here!

      Relation to Henry Parker: Connections can be creative and fun. If you'd like to be family of a childhood friend, please PM me so I can corrupt you with sinister secrets!
      Appearance: Please provide an image and detailed description for your character, from facial features to wardrobe.
      Profession: What does your character do for a living? How long have they done it?
      Hobbies: Choose two areas or trades your characters knows well. They need not be related profession.

      Background: Give us a glimpse of your character's life in 2-3 short paragraphs. Think of this as a summary, like a flash fiction, rather than a short-story. Don't feel the need to tell-all, but please do give us something developed to sink our teeth into. Also, consider your relation to Henry Parker, whether it plays a small or large role in your history, and you came to be in Madisonville.

      Personality: How do you think? Are you imaginative, a cynic, or an idealist who demands the world change? Help us to understand what makes your character tick mentally and emotionally. Don't forget the recent Civil War either -- give us some insight into your politics, feelings about slavery, or your lack thereof (if they do not have a political insights or opinions, the reason why should probably be clear in the Background).

      Equipment: What does your character have on their person? Where some swear by service revolver, others may keep the Good Book or a bottle of whiskey. A character may have a reasonably sized satchel or packsack to help carry their belongings, but please be realistic.

      Property: Your character, their kin, or dear friends may own property. For the purposes of this game, each character may have up to two properties available to them, but they must make sense according to their background, profession, etc. A property is a place you are able to stay for extended period of time and to safely keep your belongings. Having properties outside of Madisonville may come into play as we venture out, but may not be immediately useful.

    • Here is an example filling in some of the areas unique to this roleplay. I'll spare you a full run down.

      Name: Jonathan 'John' Doe
      Date of Birth: April 14, 1844
      Origin of Birth: A Village in Northern Texas
      Sex: Male

      Relation to Henry Parker: We crossed paths during the war. Parker stole my horse and rifle, leaving me stranded and declared a deserter. Made for a hard few years and even with the war dead and done, my reputation remains soiled. I owe the bastard my thanks.
      Profession: Gun for Hire / Drifter
      Hobbies: Hunting & Navigation

      Background: As a abled bodied Texan I was happy to fight for my rights and my people. I grew up farming tobacco and what not and that work couldn't be done without labourers toiling around the clock. Now a hard working Negro is no different than a hard working white, they deserve respect, but giving them freedom would mean ending my way of life. Naturally, I was happy to serve the Confederacy. I fought hard too until that sneak-thief bastard Henry Parker stole my horse, my rifle, and my gear, and left me for stranded miles away from my company. By the time I made it even halfway to camp I was labelled a deserter. No reasoning with the law when its hungry though, so I fled and laid low.


      Last year I came across Parker's name. Turns out he surfaced up north as some artsy, dandy type. I tried to put him out my mind, but the hellfire in my belly refused. Finished up a couple months of bodyguard work until I could afford the trip and a new revolver. Sitting on the train to this Madisonville, I find myself imagining the bastard blown to bits, and you can bet I'm smiling.

      Equipment: A leather packsack with a day's worth of food, water, a few letters, some money, ammo, and a journal. John wears a small knife on one hip and a Colt revolver on the other. Finally, he has a rifle breech-loaded, Springfield rifle that he keeps close.

      Property: John lacks any kin or comrades in the north as well as personal property to the south. That said, he has served a few wealthy men in the south and has family in Texas where he would be accepted at least a night or two. He has sold or lost most belongings besides what he carries.
  2. I'm happy to answer any questions or hear suggestions. I understand the historical section is a bit small, but this isn't about recounting history at all, just using a world slightly different from our own.

    Looking forward to feedback!
  3. I just want to be socially positive and say that this is a wonderful idea you have put together. I'd join, but unfortunately, I can't dedicate myself to writing out descriptions for some of the things listed within the character sheet. A bit too much for me considering my life outside of the internet. I just wouldn't have the time, but I do hope you find members willing to do this with you and take more than enough time to build a worthy character. (:
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