By Monica Marlowe
Every society has some mythology that addresses death and the afterlife. My belief system, heavily influenced by Christian and European pagan beliefs, acknowledges that when people die their souls/spirits leave the physical body and transition to another plane for an afterlife. October is traditionally the month of honoring the departed where I live and even more so, October is Halloween month (depending on how much you love Halloween). Here at Marlowe House we decided this year we would look specifically at how to incorporate a ghost story into your game.
First, THE SOUNDTRACK! You can find it on YouTube here for your listening convenience: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD4e5p6teqZLaU5ohn-3bnuqgDCt6hNgK
1. “Boatman (Unplugged) feat. VNV Nation” by Mono Inc.
2. “Ballad of the Great Eastern” by Sting
3. “Where the Sky Begins” by Minstrels of Mayhem
4. “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saëns
5. “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash
6. “Pirate Girls” by Linford Detweiler
7. “Ghost of the Navigator” by Iron Maiden
8. “I’m in the Attic Again” by Linford Detweiler
9. “They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo)” by Sting
10. “Tales of the Phantom Ship” by Lennie Gallant
11. “Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky
12. “Jacksie” by Over the Rhine
13. “Ghost Rider” by Rush
14. “Jackie” by Sinéad O’Connor
15. “She Lost Feeling in the Ends of Her Fingers” by Linford Detweiler
16. “O’ Death” by Jen Titus
17. “Boatman” by Mono Inc. and VNV Nation
Unlike our Space Trucker setting, this setting was inspired by something our children said. One afternoon Kate and Thomas where laughing, as they do, when I checked to see what was so funny, I found them talking like cowboy pirates, saying things like “Howdy matey!” and “Ahoy me partner!” They were being silly but they planted a seed that has germinated in my mind and now a soundtrack to support it. I spoke with Thomas, as he expressed interest in joining our Friday Night Hangout game and play a cowboy pirate and had to come up with how a cowboy, traditional North American cowboys were late 19th century, became a pirate, most notably a pirate during the “Golden Age” from 1650’s through 1730’s. Although it is worth noting that there have long been pirates and cattle herders, we are looking at the most stereotypical European descended “cowboy” and “pirate”, my son’s acting skill and historical knowledge are limited, at best.
I realized the only real place a cowboy could become a pirate is if there was some kind of “time travel” or a kind of time stasis, which ultimately led me to ghosts. What happened to ghosts in the long run? Just how did ghosts work? Specifically ghost ships and cowboys lost on cattle drives. Some stories tell of humans dying and becoming part of a larger haunt or falling prey to powerful spirits or fey who force them to be lost to the mortal world and forever in service, such as “Ghost Riders in the Sky” invites the listener to envision an American version of ancient European folklore.
The premise of this short two-night game is that ghost ships are still active long after they whatever caused them to become ghost ships occurred. Countless ships have been lost at sea of the centuries of people putting boats on water and if the stories are to be believed, once a ghost ship, always a ghost ship. In “The Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise The Flying Dutchman had been cursed within the lifetime of the main characters and released within a life span, generally speaking. Our ghost ship, called “The Captain’s Folly” by her crew, was cursed and has been sailing the seven seas since approximately 1710. Now it’s 2019 and the crew has taken on some new members, they’re all ready to break their curse, once and for all, and go to their eternal rest.
Now I have a soundtrack, some setting notes, and three or four brave souls (we definitely have some guest players joining our table) who are willing to explore what happens when their characters die a watery death.