'The Alchemist' (H.P. Lovecraft d20)

Michael O. Varhola

There are any number of elements from "The Alchemist," H.P. Lovecraft's second published story, that I could have tried to put into game terms, the most obvious being Charles le Sorcier. In that he would have to be both exceedingly complex and, like "The Beast in the Cave," exceptionally feeble, I decided this was more effort than it was worth. Other options included the Alchemist's laboratory, the narrator, Comte de C____, or part or all of the castle or the overgrown lands surrounding it, but these elements are all so vaguely described that anything I based on them would have to go far beyond Lovecraft's treatment of them if they were to be at all useful. So, I decided to go in a completely different direction and key on a particular sentence in the story: "Perhaps it was at first only the manifest reluctance of my old preceptor to discuss with me my paternal ancestry that gave rise to the terror which I ever felt at the mention of my great house ..." This brought to mind a Feat I had developed for use in the Troll Lord Games book Nation Builder and, in that it seemed appropriate to the character of the Comte, I decided to post it here.

Great House [General]​
A character with this Feat has been born into one of the ruling families of a particular land, is related to kings and other major royalty in multiple states, and is the holder of a particular aristocratic title (e.g., baron, count, duke, earl, prince). This status is not merit based and does not necessarily bestow either enforceable obligations or advantages. This feat must be the first one taken by a starting character.

Prerequisite: Aristocrat level 1.

Benefit: The scion of a Great House receives a +3 circumstance bonus on all opposed Charisma-based skill checks made to other Aristocrats or to people who understand who he is. Furthermore, all DCs for Knowledge (Nobility & Royalty) skill checks pertaining to the character or his family are at -5 (i.e., his family name is recognizable with a DC 10 rather than a DC 15 skill check).

With the game master’s approval, a character with this Feat can opt to assume various responsibilities in return for commensurate benefits (e.g., upon reaching a certain level, a marquis might be allowed to assume control of a fortified frontier manor house formerly held by another member of his family in exchange for defending the surrounding area).

Normal: Most Aristocrats are from Minor Houses, for which they receive no marked benefits above and beyond those that would be enjoyed by members of any other character classes. Knowledge (Nobility & Royalty) skill check DCs pertaining to them or their families are not affected by the relative prominence of their houses.

Special: At the GM’s option (or the player’s if appropriate), an Aristocrat character can be deemed to be from an Obscure House and, as this can be both a benefit and a detriment, it does not require use of a Feat. Furthermore, all DCs for Knowledge (Nobility & Royalty) skill checks pertaining to the character and his family made by others are at +5 (i.e., his family name is recognizable with a DC 20 rather than a DC 15 skill check).