STORY GAMES: "Wuthering Heights, the RPG"
Iron your smoking jacket, rub the cellar-muck off the Madeira, and send the livery out to fetch a gaming table and some of Mr. Foxbury's amusing miniatures for gentlemen!

Heathcliff Earnshaw, a man with powerful emotional armor

I know you think there's nothing left for you because you will never be able to consummate your passionate love for your own sister. But before you throw yourself from the family tower, perhaps you ought to give formalized dramatic art a try and "play a role." We've already sent a letter to Naples, and the Italian embassy sent a man around to say that one of their experimental hard-crust sauce pies and a bottle of medical water are on the next Liverpool-bound ship.

Just in time! Because this guy Philippe Tromeur in France has adapted the rules for a game called "Rene le jeu de Role Romantique" to create "Wuthering Heights, the RPG" a brilliant bit of social entertainment that will allow you and your intimates to unwind, relax, and vent your most desperate pathologies in ways better than a bottle of laudanum and a D-4 rest roll.

Ladies, perhaps you had better retire to the drawing room?

"In all the rules, the male gender (he, his, etc.) will be used for our examples. This of course implies the game is not suited for the feeble minds of our ladies. T?his work deals with such themes as Suicide, Despair, homosexuality and socialism for the sole purpose of entertainment."

The rules for this game are pretty simple. You only have three stats: Rage, Despair, and Oldness. Additionally, you are assigned a few random problems by dice roll before the game begins. Problems like: "you are honest," "you are Irish," "you are obsessed by the occult," "you are an alcoholic," "you are an alcoholic," and "you are a hemophiliac." You determine your character's occupation and relationship with the other characters in your party, you put them in a dramatic situation, and then you let their various problems contribute to a boiling cauldron of desire and pain that can only be resolved through duels, murders, bafflement, rage, sudden fits of madness, and long speeches.

Fantastic things about this game:

(1). To notice anything going on in the game, you must roll above your Despair. The default setting for all players is to be locked inside their own feelings, unable to deal with (or even comprehend) reality.

(2). To be able to tell the truth, you have to roll below your Despair. The default for all interactions in this game is outright dishonesty. As your Despair goes up, it becomes easier and easier to tell the truth, because you simply don't care anymore. Yet, the constant lies increase the Despair of others, resulting in a web of emotional torture that can only be resolved in...

(3). Duels! The only way to not be constantly involved in duels with everyone in your immediate surroundings is to duel them and lose, at which point you cannot duel them again for 1d10 days. The only way to lower your Rage is to duel, take drugs, or suffer severe emotional shocks. And if your rage goes up too high or too fast, you must vent it with a sudden violent outburst, which will no doubt cause someone else to demand satisfaction.

(4). If you ever gain more than 10 points of Rage or Despair in less than a week, you climb the "ladder of madness" one degree. All characters start at "worried," then become "troubled," then "deranged," then "absent" with various penalties assessed at each level.

(5). You can always kill yourself and come back as a ghost, with a whole different set of rules. Of course, if your suicide fails, get ready for a few days with Despair so high that every word out of your mouth is a song lyric.

(6). If you manage to make it through a gaming session, a character that lives has a chance to lose one of their randomly-assigned problems for next time. That's about the only sense of resolution or satisfaction you can achieve here. There is no victory. There is no purpose. You will sit down at the gaming table and kill all your friends after seducing them. And then you will kill yourself.


Here's an account of a session of the "Wuthering Heights RPG" from someone who gave the game a spin with their pals:

"I started the game with the idea that the players would start out at a funeral, and the player of the degenerate lord's wife suggested that she had killed her husband for his money, only to learn he had gambled away his fortune. We then basically all instantly decided that it would be more fun to start with the murder attempt, and we kicked off play from there. The fishmonger arrived in time to see her poison her husband, the doctor was called in to conceal the crime (by using his incompetence to detect actual murder), and the moneylender showed up to blackmail the wife.

"It's really startling how well this played out in practice. As the game moderator, I had to play almost no NPCs, and none of them were of central importance to the dramatic action of the story. (I think I played some police, a barfly, and a servant girl.) As events proceeded, the fishmonger was framed for the murder, ended up robbing graves on behalf of the moneylender, and just before he and his lover were hung he cut off her hand and threw it to him. The moneylender ended up being transported to Australia, and the wife found a new, rich, and dim-witted lord to marry. It was very much an "evil wins decisively" kind of ending. Nevertheless, the whole thing was berserk, hilarious, and oddly touching."


You know you want to cast a die to see if you have the Rage it takes to throw yourself from a plate-glass window into a lake and fall all the way to the bottom without struggling, never to breathe another desperate sigh. You know you want to fire a pistol at your own brother in order to steal his inheritance to pay your gambling debts.

I think the rules for this game should come standard in the back of every edition of "Wuthering Heights" instead of an afterward by Harold Bloom.


Posted by miracle on Tue, 19 May 2009 12:08:41 -0400 -- permanent link

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