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The Dee Sanction: Investigate the Supernatural As An Agent of the Elizabethan Court

What's the Dee Sanction? To answer that we have to go back to England in 1563, during the Elizabethan Age, when The Act Against Conjurations, Enchantments and Witchcraft (a real thing) was passed. This tabletop roleplaying game has players working under the Queen's advisor, Doctor John Dee, to investigate the supernatural and earn absolution for their own dabbling in magic. It's coming to the end of its Kickstarter run, and has not only funded, but blasted through a dozen stretch goals including a partial map of London, dry wipeable character cards, and more. You have until Sunday!

I spoke to the game's writer, Paul Baldowski.

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First, foremost, and most important -- who is John Dee?

Doctor John Dee, was advisor and court astronomer to Queen Elizabeth. A man learned in mathematics, astrology, divination, and alchemy, he wavered across the line between science and magic, backed by a prodigious library and breadth of knowledge. He found a niche firmly in the ground of cutting edge and fringe lore, but with key insights and discoveries with immediate practical value to the members and favourites of the Royal Court.

What makes the Elizabethan age ripe for role playing?

The Elizabethan age is a tumultuous period of history, in the midst of the Renaissance, when the status quo changed for everyone, from the bottom to the top. Traditions, privileges, rights, beliefs - they were all in doubt, and it's that doubt that has allowed magic and creatures of the supernatural to proliferate throughout the land in the backdrop of The Dee Sanction.

How rooted in actual history is the game?

The personalities, factions, conflicts, discoveries and key events all find their roots in the actual history. As I did in The Cthulhu Hack, I've gone back to the source material and examined it with an eye toward the unlikely, the esoteric and the impossible. The Queen was fascinated by alchemy and magic, Dee genuinely sought to speak with angels, and the map remained littered with areas little explored or utterly unknown from which strange horrors threatened to emerge.

The game doesn't expect the table to have a great depth of knowledge; there's no test at the end of every session or an entrance exam. As a setting, you can run light within the framework of events outlined or choose to deep dive into the politics and intrigue if that's what the gathered gamers want.

You mention the Act Against Conjurations, Enchantments and Witchcraft of 1563. Can you talk a little about the law and superstition in that period of history?

The Act is a real world hook upon which to hang the premise for the game. In 1564, John Dee and Francis Walsingham convinced the Queen to pass an amendment to that Act — the titular Dee Sanction — permitting the practice of magic in defence of the realm.

What does a typical adventure in The Dee Sanction look like? What sort of activities will the players get up to?

The player characters work for the Queen to defend the realm against the unknown and the unknowable. That might mean dealing with something entirely ordinary like spies or assassins, or it could be supernatural threats like demons or creature of the Fae. The European landscape in The Dee Sanction is dotted with individuals, many in high office, dabbling in the occult arts, whether for power, wealth or some other obscure cause.

The PCs might find themselves sent to find someone or something for Dee or Walsingham, or they could get mixed up in strange goings on that develop more organically around them. There's also room for something akin to dungeoneering; treasure-hunting in the ruins of England is a definite possibility in the aftermath of King Henry's dissolution of the monasteries.

What is the nature of magic in the game, and how does it manifest itself during play?

In The Dee Sanction, player characters have a favour at their command, an example of the lowest form of Angelic magick. These are little more than base acts of command over elemental forces that make up the landscape. Favours work once a session. They're significant enough to be useful, but they're not fireballs or flight. If you listen to the Actual Play sessions linked on the Kickstarter page, you can get the gist that even a favour that allows you to spontaneously dig a hole or create a mound of earth can be the difference between life and death.

In the longer term for the game, I'll delve further and wider into magic, as many of the prime antagonists in the game possess significant occult power or command unearthly entities.

One unusual manifestation of magic is a chap called Mister Garland, who serves the front from mission briefings when Dee or Walsingham aren't around. He's clearly not an ordinary agent, but the reality is something the game will investigate in later adventures and material. In the real world, he manifests as a Twitter prepared to generate a random character if you mention @MrGarland4 in any tweet.

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Find The Dee Sanction: Elizabethan Agents of the Supernatural here on Kickstarter.
 
Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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