I have been spending a fair amount of time reading, with the intent that some background will fuel creativity in adventures and setting. Here I speak specifically about The Dee Sanction.
At heart, the setting revolves around the travels of Doctor Dee and Edward Kelley in Eastern Europe. The good Doctor spent a lot of time out in the darkest depths of the Habsburg dominions, perhaps seeking support for Queen Elizabeth in the face of increasing Catholic pressures and feints, perhaps not. It seems that Dee and Kelley spent as much time getting in trouble as anything else.
In a time when witchcraft remained a serious issue with serious repercussions for the practitioners, Dee and Kelley trod a very dangerous path. Kelley, frankly, seems to have been a bit of a fruitcake, and Dee altogether too readily fell for his line. Dee, a man in whom Elizabeth had a great deal of trust, himself trusted in the esoteric prevarications and augurous protestations of a medium and sometime necromancer.
In The Dee Sanction, the player characters make up a team of investigators under the tutelage and mentorship of Dee. Sir Francis Walsingham, the Queen’s spymaster, has a keen eye in matters of intelligence and espionage. However, even he cannot claim any great knowledge of matters supernatural. The only way to truly protect Elizabeth necessitates fighting fire with fire.
In spite of the laws of the realm laid down to punish users of magic – like the 1542 Act Against Conjurations and Witchcraft – Walsingham cannot promise true safety without magic of the light. Walsingham advises an adjustment to the legislation, the Dee Sanction, which allows the formation of an undercover unit tasked with seeking out witches, warlocks and demonologists intent on harming the Queen or his dominions.
The setting supports adventures in England, during the 1570s, and thence to Eastern Europe, in the 1580s. Originally, I had my eye on Bohemia and the city of Prague, but this now seems a little too close to the bright lights and riches of nobility. I have come to favour something a little off the ‘beaten track’ and set my Dragonmeet playtest adventure in northern Moravia, which lies to the east of Bohemia.
Now, I’m doing a little preparatory work for Seven Hills in April (just a little) and find my new adventure also set in Moravia, this time in the dark forest and ruined fortresses of eastern Moravia, on the border with Silesia.
In the summer of 1586, a body lies motionless in the grounds of St James’s Park. Servants and courtiers charge across the well tended grounds, the crack of gunfire still echoing in their ears. A crimson outline spreads from the torn and shattered body of Queen Elizabeth, and with the ragged gasp of her final breath the future of England dies with her.
Three years earlier, in the troubled east European border town of Kraznow, a young girl wracked with spasms and tortured by spirits tells of the bloody fall of England’s greatest Queen. Might her words, and the actions of the Dee Sanction, uncover a way to thwart this assassination before it even happens?
I’m personally very keen on this continued stretch in my understanding and appreciation of Europe during this period. I have, in the past, focussed heavily on socio-economic studies of Tudor England, so this goes some way out of my normal territory for reading. I’m always up for a challenge – and, I feel, setting the game in this area allows more leeway for game referees who might themselves have little grasp of the period. Distant corners of Europe, filled with dark forests and trackless mountains, might seem more ‘homely’ to those used to running more conventional fantasy games – and perhaps make the setting more accessible.