Colonial Gothic: An Interview with Richard G. Iorio

Colonial Gothic is a supernatural historical horror roleplaying game set during the dawn of the American Revolution.” The original designer who is currently working on a fourth edition, Richard G. Iorio, was kind enough to talk to me about his RPG, his design choices, and his upcoming work.

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In Colonial Gothic (PDF) magic, the occult, and the supernatural are all real and dangerous but denied by the majority of colonists. The player characters, however, see the evil going on and decide to risk everything to be the last line of defense against the darkness. The system is called 12° and uses 2d12 to generate results. There are several supplements and adventures available. Updates can be found on Colonial Gothic | Facebook.

Charlie Dunwoody (CD): To clear up any confusion by readers, was your RPG connected to Flames of Freedom and what are the current publishing and rights status of Colonial Gothic?
Richard G. Iorio (RI):
There is no connection, to be honest. The game was licensed by the publisher, and they went in their own direction. No rights were brought, and Rogue Games still owns the game. Look at it this way: Flames of Freedom is from an alternative dimension. The upcoming (Colonial Gothic) 4th Edition is tied to the game as we know it.

CD: What inspired you to create Colonial Gothic and what keeps the ideas flowing into new supplements and soon a fourth edition?
RI:
I wanted something different. I was tired of fantasy and the types of games my friends and I played. When it was my turn to GM, I unleashed the setting on them. The reception was what you think it would be: no one liked it. I shelved the idea and would bring it out all throughout college. The reception was good, and as it crystalized, the setting clicked. The thing that hurt the game was the mechanic. As for the flow of ideas, I read a lot. I also have a degree in History focused on the period. Due to this, I read a lot, and the more I read, the more ideas came. Some of these ideas are fictional, while some are historical. I often tell people that this game is the history you find in the shadows. Many historical events are hard to explain; yes, we know these events happened, but how did they happen? So, looking at all of this and taking what I know and what I learn informed the setting. I wanted something that was more folk horror, supernatural, and otherworldly. Additionally, I wanted something that was touched by the occult — would be known at the time — and secret societies. However, these ideas date back to high school and college. The current game became what it is around 2006. That is when the setting took shape, and the plot found through the game was born.

CD: Was 12° and using 2d12 your first choice of system for Colonial Gothic and why? What was your process for creating the system?
RI:
Originally, this game was going to be published by another publisher, and we worked to get a license for Call of Cthulhu, but that never materialized. I was going to use the Tri-Stat system, but nothing came from that due to what happened with the publisher. When I was working for Zeitgeist Games, the idea was to use d20, a very stripped-down version, but I did not like how the setting worked with the rules we were trying. Unhappy, I pulled out of my notebooks one of the systems I was designing as a thought experiment. I had a couple, but the 2d12 system was what felt right. It allowed me to model the type of play style I wanted; the spread was close to d20 that the concepts could be grasped. The mechanic also allowed for play to be fast. Yes, it uses a Target Number, which is not an innovation, but it is quick to learn, which should be important when creating a game. 12 Degrees has been revised, rethought, and even redesigned in some places, but it remains the same. You can still use older supplements with the new version with little effort. Plus, in the Shadow, Sword & Spells case, it is easier to learn a new game that runs the same system. The other reason I choose the 12-sided die? It is my favorite die. Be thankful I did not go with my second favorite, the d4.

CD: Fourth edition! I’m excited about your future work and the upcoming Kickstarter. Do you have an idea when the Kickstarter will go live, what will be offered, and will previous edition supplements still work with the new edition?
RI:
If all goes well next month. There are a few things in the background that need to be finished. The manuscript is done, edited, and just waiting for the layout and art. I wanted to make sure this was the case before anything else happened. It is done, and we can now move forward. As far as offerings with the game. I will be honest and upfront: I do not like the trend of adding more to a project. It is the book that matters for me and only for me. That being said, things in the works will be part of the rewards. I am going to keep that close to the vest for now. To answer the question, yes, previous versions will be compatible. 4E has changed 12 Degrees some so that conversion guidelines will be in the book. How hard is the conversion? It’s not hard at all.

CD: What prompted you go create the next edition of Colonial Gothic and what directions do you want your RPG to move towards with future releases?
RI:
Two things, and both are personal. The first reason is the obvious one: the other game. It was not what I wanted, and it was not what it should have been. It should have been better, and I should have fought harder on the things I did not like. This was a different license from the other ones Rogue Games has done, and we learned a lot from it. The game is a good game. I like some of the mechanics tweaks that took place. As for other things? It is what it is. The second reason is a bit more complicated. I am always tweaking 12 Degrees. Changing things to keep play smoother. Model new ideas into the mechanics and see if the system breaks. Really, 12 Degrees is a living and breathing “thing.” 12 Degrees has been refined to the point that I think it is time to release it into the world. The last edition was released in 2017, and it is time to refresh the game.

CD: You have a new supplement out about spies in the Thirteen Colonies called Turncoats. What is your favorite part of this supplement?
RI:
What I really like is Chapter 2, Of Spies & Spying. Anthony Ragan, who wrote the book, did a tremendous job pulling in all of spycraft's historical facts and viewpoints in this chapter. The manner in which he takes the topic and makes it accessible really makes this book what it is. I did a lot of research on the topic before the project began, and Anthony added his own and put everything together in a great chapter.

CD: For GMs wanting to run Colonial Gothic for the first time, do you have a starting location you recommend and/or a good adventure to kick off a campaign?
RI:
If you are starting out, check out Colonial Gothic: Adventure and The Landlord's Daughter. Adventure contains two separate adventures that ease you into Colonial Gothic. The Landlord’s Daughter is another good starting point. If you want to kick off a campaign, Boston Besieged and The Philadelphia Affair are perfect.

CD: Any final comments you’d like to share with the readers of EN World?
RI:
Sure. Have fun. The game has a lot to offer. The amount of research into each release offers you enough ideas to spin into your own adventures. Fans of the game get ready for the new edition. The Kickstarter is coming and will be the perfect starting point for a new era of the game.

Charlie Dunwoody participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program and the Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG and Noble Knight Games respectively. If you like the articles at EN World please consider supporting the EN World Patreon.
 

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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody

lyle.spade

Adventurer
I picked up digital version of a heap of these books years ago and found a lot to like in them, although the system at the time seemed a little counterintuitive and confusing. An updated version interests me...the period, and the author's knowledge of it and use of historical fact to anchor the game is clever, and well-done. I'll keep an eye on this.
 

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rogue_richard

Explorer
As someone whose interest in US history lies more during the time of our Civil War, does a game or setting exist that's similar to Colonial Gothic in that time period? (I've tried the Savage Worlds flavor of Deadlands, and didn't care too much for it.) The secret societies and occult against the backdrop of the American Civil War would really capture my interest.
I do not know of one.
 

rogue_richard

Explorer
I picked up digital version of a heap of these books years ago and found a lot to like in them, although the system at the time seemed a little counterintuitive and confusing. An updated version interests me...the period, and the author's knowledge of it and use of historical fact to anchor the game is clever, and well-done. I'll keep an eye on this.
I hear you on the mechanic, and one of the reasons I am doing a new edition is to add the refinements the mechanic has had with play.
 

rogue_richard

Explorer
Love Colonial Gothic's previous versions(warts and all) and was super pumped for Flames of Freedom, but it wasn't CG. At least not the CG I thought we would have gotten. It's still a great game, just not CG.
Looking forward to diving in deep with this new version!
I learned a lot during the FoF version. That is all I'm going to say. 👍
 

rogue_richard

Explorer
I loved reading Colonial Gothic books for their unique take on the particular moment of US history. I was however unable to align the rules in my mind - and there was a lot historical reading one had to do... once your PCs leave their initial location, you need to be able to paint broader picture, and this is where things become harder.

Hopefully, the 4th edition will incorporate a map of a larger area with a gazetteer for key locations and events.
The majority of the book makes understanding the history and climate easier. The occult nd supernatural is still there but the real world is more defined.
 

rogue_richard

Explorer
For some reason, I thought the author of Grognardia.blogspot, was involved with this in a previous edition. I know a game he wrote used the 12 Degree system.

There was also a series of books set in the pre-revolution colonies where magic is used, but only to a few.
The game you are referring to is Thousand Suns.
 

rogue_richard

Explorer
Is the 12° system the same as in Shaow, Sword & Spell? I kind of tried to wrap my head around that, but TBH, bounced of the really weird scale (I think I could have dealt with 2d10 or 1d12, but 2d12 feels strange - I guess it's not inherently stranger than 2d6, but it produces numbers that just feel slightly too big for adding and subtracting comfortably, without having the advantage of being percentile). However, the setting sounds really interesting.
Yes, it is the same as Shadow, Sword & Spell. As for 2d12, it works for the tone I go for in each game. A new edition of that game is going to happen to bring it in line with CG, but that is not a priority right now.
 

Swanosaurus

Adventurer
Yes, it is the same as Shadow, Sword & Spell. As for 2d12, it works for the tone I go for in each game. A new edition of that game is going to happen to bring it in line with CG, but that is not a priority right now.
Thanks for clarifying!
Out of curiosity, is there a specific reason for using 2d12 - I get liking the d12, but why 2? Is there some specific relevance of the scale of 2-24? I mean, I can get behind The One Ring, which uses a d12 that is actually a d0-10 (with two times 10) plus several d6, so it's not as if I'd have a principal problem with unfamiliar dice combinations, I just wander what's the specific idea about using 2d12.
 

lyle.spade

Adventurer
I hear you on the mechanic, and one of the reasons I am doing a new edition is to add the refinements the mechanic has had with play.
Thank you. The setting is rich, in large part because the real-world backdrop is rich, and far more detailed and varied and interesting than most people realize. You know, I think the Federalist Papers might have had a spell or something like that woven into their words...yeah. Probably did...an 11-some month incantation. And I can see way more to the Washington-Jefferson split than just the French Revolution.
 

rogue_richard

Explorer
Thank you. The setting is rich, in large part because the real-world backdrop is rich, and far more detailed and varied and interesting than most people realize. You know, I think the Federalist Papers might have had a spell or something like that woven into their words...yeah. Probably did...an 11-some month incantation. And I can see way more to the Washington-Jefferson split than just the French Revolution.
Well there must be a reason Jefferson build and rebuild Monticello over a forty year span. Also, he was an avid book buyer and no one really knew what tomes he had.
 

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