Spooktober Spotlight – English Eerie 2nd Edition: A Rural Horror Storytelling Game [REVIEW]
English Eerie 2nd Edition – Trollish Delver Games (@trollishdelver)
Available from Itch or DrivethruRPG
In an attempt to highlight some horror-based games during this spooky season, I thought it would be a good idea to also try and do something a bit different. I consider myself to be a fairly experienced role player, having dabbled in all manner of systems and settings. What I haven’t really considered, is the possibility of solo roleplaying games. Of course, sure, I devoured things like the choose your own adventure books from sources such as Fighting Fantasy, but not in a more ‘open’ sense. With that in mind, English Eerie seemed like a great choice.
Full disclosure, I received a copy of English Eerie from the author for the purposes of this article and have had the pleasure of being a player in some of their games. I’ll do my best though to try and maintain a sense of objectivity.
So what exactly is English Eerie?
“There is blood in the roots of England. Forgotten, ancient things crawl beneath its surface, haunt its manor houses and creep within its woodland. Beyond the bucolic beauty of its rolling hills and quaint villages are sinister forces at work, and you’re about to stumble headlong into them.”
At its heart, the Eerie Engine is a means of horror storytelling in the tradition of Conan Doyle or Blackwood. It’s not a high falutin literary exercise though as the system seems like it will as happily cover those tales of folklore and urban legend recounted round campfires and torchlight. Players, either as a group, or, as I was, solo, will use a synopsis to generate a story. By using a special card deck (normal playing cards can be used), events unfold revealing clues, threats, and events which drive your story to its climatic finale.
What’s particularly clever about English Eerie is that it’s not a set plot or scenario where your input is effectively limited to binary choices. Instead, this feels more like a tool or set of writing prompts. I don’t mean that in a negative way, as this allows the player, or players, to fashion something that is inherently theirs. The core idea is to ‘play’ the game as someone writing journal or diary entries. Will you be the likes of Mr Harker writing letters back to a loved one or perhaps you’ll be putting a more modern spin on your game and writing entries onto a blog?
What will you need to play the game?
Aside from a copy of English Eerie, which can be picked up for a very reasonable sum at Itch or DrivethruRPG, you’ll need a few things to get yourself playing. You’ll definitely want to get yourself something to write with and on. You could use your computer, laptop, etc., but some writing or letter paper is heartily recommended to get in the right mood. Similarly, its strongly recommended that you consider doing this by candlelight or lamp. Keep your ocular health in mind, but setting the right mood will pay dividends for a game like this. In addition, pick up a d10, a deck of playing cards, and some tokens. You can use anything as long as they are of two separate colours. Beads, buttons, or even coins or sweets in a pinch.
Playing the game
Without copying the system here verbatim, the jist is fairly easy to follow. There are ten scenarios given in this edition of the game which give a brief synopsis, list of locations, secondary characters, and clues. You start with one of these or can track down some of the community shared ones as the basis of your first foray. The synopsis anchors you and gives the general plot and timeframe such as a moor in Victorian England to a research ship in the depths of future space. At each step of the ‘game’ you’ll reveal a card which will lead you in shaping the events of the unfolding story. This could be something like an environmental change such as fog rolling in over the docks or an encounter with the curmudgeonly groundskeeper.
Part of the ‘gaming’ aspect is the tracking of your protagonist’s stats; Resolve and Spirit. These are used to not only help overcome obstacles that might appear during the story but also influence the final outcome. On top of this, the deck contains Grey Ladies. A staple of British folk horror, although where I grew up it was a White Lady, these aren’t necessarily specific relating to female ghosts but instead ambiguous events that build tension in the story.
The mechanics are simple, and definitely fall into the ‘light’ category. After a few minutes you’ll have a good grasp on the system and other than having the scenario and some minor cross-referencing, you’ll be good to go in short order.
So is it any good?
Solo gaming is not something that I really consider ‘my thing’. I enjoy the social aspect of games whether its roleplaying, cards, or any other tabletop media you care to mention. I also enjoy getting my teeth into writing and coming up with plot and adventure ideas. Couple this with the lack of face to face gaming time given the current global situations and you’ve got a heady brew of reasons why this worked for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that this will replace more traditional roleplaying systems as my preferred go to but I had a lot of fun running through a couple of scenarios. A good indication for me that a system or game is any good is when I have the urge to play it more than once. If I’m coming up with scenario ideas to try out then it’s a definite plus.
Given the time of year, I think this would be a fantastic treat for those looking for something new and easily accessible. I’ve always been one for coming up with short story ideas or winging it during games so this didn’t feel like a forced leap. I do however think its important to clarify that you won’t need to be an accomplished writer or literary savant to enjoy this game. (I’m not, and I did!) If playing solo, then anything you come up with will be for thine eyes only. Explore the horrors of your own minds eye. Spelling mistakes and sloppy handwriting aplenty matter not. If playing as a group, potentially socially distanced round a campfire, then the experience and setting will surely add to the ambience. I can still see this working over Zoom or whatever though.
Overall, English Eerie, is what I would call a good storytelling tool; capturing the feel of those tales we all shared growing up. Well worth a punt afore the end of Spooktober.
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster
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