Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/0-
This review is part of a series of ongoing reviews of material for the Colonial Gothic RPG, a role-playing game set in Colonial America with supernatural and horror elements. For other reviews in the series check out this list:
-Colonial Gothic Rulebook Second Edition
-The Ross-Allen Letters
-Organizations: The Templars
-The French-Indian War
Now, on to the review!
Have you ever thought Colonial Gothic was missing something? Something…a little more French? Maybe you wondered: “do we have to play this game in the boring old 13 original colonies?” Or perhaps you thought out loud while reading some other sourcebooks: “yeah, yeah, but what about CANADA?” Well my friends, I’m going to tell you about a book that will blow the beaver pelts right off of your fur trade, because this is Colonial Gothic: New France written by Rogue Games’ resident New France correspondent Gabriel Brouillard. With this book, you’ll feel like you can take your table straight up to the French holdings in the North.
Parlez Vous “Cult Activity?”
Ok, so I have to mention something right off: this book is not really about supernatural stuff. It’s geared toward a mostly historical presentation of New France during the 18th century up through the end of the Revolutionary War. I say “mostly historical” because the book states that the facts as we know them are bent a bit to make the sourcebook more attuned the game rather than just a source of historical information. What would really bump these books to another level of awesomeness is if certain things were labeled as historical and non-historical. Perhaps, if only there were some sort of symbol that could be used to denote things which may require clarification or special mention, something like the things I might put around this word…that would be quite useful. For instance, if I were to write: George Washington led his troops on a yellow horse, which was colored in that manner because he superstitiously powdered it in Turmeric before a major military movement or engagement*. That kind of notation would let people know that I made that sh– up.
So what are the historical parts then, what does Brouillard have to tell us? The book starts off with the beginning of France’s involvement in the New World, and then continues on detailing milestones which mostly involve major conflicts like wars with the British or edicts passed by the British or…British occupation. Ok, a lot of it has to do with Britain, but at the time those Brits were all up in everybody’s business, so it’s no wonder they ended up getting booted off of the island (eventually). The major periods include “The Golden Age of New France”, a time of growth and prosperity for the settlers there; the period around the French-Indian War, where Britain and France once again came into conflict; and the period of the Revolutionary War, where French sympathizers aided against the British and where those seeking refuge from the war traveled North to New France. All told, this book encompasses the early 1700s, and then from about 1756 to 1783 with snippets from other parts of the 18th century.
Chapter 2 is a run-down of colonies in New France, most of which are recognizable names today (to Americans anyway) like Montreal, Canada, Newfoundland, and Quebec. Each colony gets a brief description of how it was founded and notable things that happened there. Following that are descriptions and illustrations of forts and trading posts, and then a good many pages discussing the various kinds of people that would populate a French colony. There is a passage about how at one point immigration was limited to Catholics and any others wanting to come had to renounce their faith and convert. This made it a bit harder to get people over to New France! Land was controlled by this group and handed down to seigneurs to be further divided among the settlers. In this way the regions of New France were populated, so the book explains. This chapter also includes an interesting portion about a group of one hundred merchants who basically were given a monopoly on the lucrative fur trade in exchange for bringing settlers to New France. Is this true or not? I assume it is at least partly true, but there is nothing in the book letting me know one way or the other, and while I am somewhat knowledgeable about the period I don’t know about anything like that. Again, some symbol might come in handy here to let the reader know what the author has made up for the game world.
Chapters 3 and 4 contain information on the various organizations and groups one might find in New France, like the aforementioned merchant cabal. The non-native ones are few but include the Spain-established Knights of Malta. Other groups mentioned are mostly native tribes including the murky “Mandoag” which are a ubiquitous and shadowy native group found in nearly all Colonial Gothic books I’ve seen. Other native tribes like the Huron and even the Inuit are mentioned, each getting their own paragraph or two of brief history and description. There is no really detailed information here, but it does give you some names to throw around and add a little authenticity to your game. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are each dedicated to one of the important historical periods I mentioned earlier. For each period there is a longer description of the events that transpired and how they affected New France, as well as groups involved and important personalities with adventure hooks including them. These chapters have some really nice information on these periods and what they meant to the development of New France; for instance the French-Indian War chapter goes on about the French generals as they struggled to keep the British from taking Quebec, and gives several adventure scenarios involving different groups like the Freemasons, or legends like hidden Templar riches.
The last four chapters are a smattering of rules on various topics. There are some new backgrounds added like French Catholic priest and Coureur des Bois, a person who goes out into the wild to trade with native peoples. Some backgrounds are just New France versions of the ones found in the core book, like Rural and Urban Colonist. You’re given two entire pages of French names from the period, how cool! Enjoy naming your French colonist “Michaud St. Pierre”. There is a chapter dedicated to duels. Yes, in case the honor of your character or your character’s charge is tarnished in some way, you can now look at these rules and see whether you prefer a sword duel or a pistol duel, and if the latter which set of rules you would like to abide by. The last two chapters are some adventure seeds in the form of mysteries (real or not? I don’t know!) that can be turned into Colonial Gothic sessions and a short chapter containing a few monsters. The adventures are interesting and peculiar, like high-quality roads being mysteriously built in the middle of nowhere and a magnetic hill…not sure how to turn those into riveting adventures but who knows.
Overall, this book is great if you want to run an adventure in Canada or other French-owned territories, or if you are looking for more information for a campaign during the French-Indian war. Gabriel does a great job of condensing information and whipping up some adventure ideas, as well as giving Game Masters what they need to help make the game authentic in the French territories. Great supplement for Colonial Gothic.
[5 of 5 Stars!]