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An Introduction to Fables Around the Table: Curse

Fables Around the Table is a new tabletop RPG anthology podcast from Project Derailed. Each season will be an actual-play mini-campaign featuring tabletop RPG systems in a variety of genres and settings. A revolving cast of players and game masters will bring the games to life. The first season premieres Wednesday, June 17th. Episodes will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever listeners get their podcasts.

Curse, the first season of Fables, uses The Curse of the House of Rookwood by Nerdy Pup Games. Rookwood is a horror game that centers around a dysfunctional monster-hunting family. Each member of the family has supernatural powers, but at a cost: these powers are the result of a curse that they will eventually succumb to and die from. The Rookwoods are down to four: Virgil, the eldest member of the family; Gail and Penny, middle aged sisters with a combative relationship; and J.C., the youngest Rookwood at 17. In addition to them, Gail’s husband, Alistair Lavalle, joins them on their adventure. The cast also includes a number of guests as NPCs. This generation of Rookwoods has decided to stop monster hunting after experiencing immense tragedies. However, this does not stop their family curse. The supernatural will not be forgotten so easily.

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The Curse of the House of Rookwood Game

Rookwood is a d6-based horror game written by Brian Binh and Michael Addison. The suggested setting for the system is Victorian England, but it can easily be adapted to fit any time and place.

Before the game begins, the players and chronicler (game master) answer the game’s seven cursed questions. Answering these questions develops the family’s history, including figuring out why the family is cursed in the first place.

From there, players develop their characters. They assign dice to the traits weird, guile, and brawn. They also use their personality and goals to create “skeletons” to regain lost dice and move the game forward. Each player also chooses a curse. The curses are generally developed around a theme. There are example curses in the book, but players are also free to create their own. While the curses grant supernatural gifts, they also give the characters “marks”: physical manifestations of the curses. Marks are gained by rolling doubles when making a supernatural effort to complete an action. Players can gain up to five marks. However, the fifth mark is always the point where the characters succumb to their curses.

While the game’s mechanics and story involves the supernatural, ultimately, the game is about playing a dysfunctional family. The Rookwoods fight each other just as often (if not perhaps more often) than they fight the supernatural. While the villains may be bogeymen or werewolves, the conflicts generally reside within the family.

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The Story

Elias Rookwood was the first of the family to become cursed.

Elias was a famed monster hunter. In the late 17th century, he moved to New England to seek out the witches hiding in the New World. Shortly after arriving, Elias made a deal with the witches: he gained supernatural abilities, but at a cost.

The more Elias used his powers, the more evident his curse became. He sprouted great antler-like branches and slowly began to look more like a tree than a man. He used his powers to defeat the witches who cursed him, but by that point, it was too late.

Elias saw his children begin to manifest their own curses shortly before his demise. It was then that he realized that the curse affected more than just him. Elias succumbed to his curse in 1705. He transformed into a massive tree. His tree marked the location of the family’s manor.

The family then started the macabre tradition of using the bodies of their loved ones to build and decorate their home. Elias’s tree was harvested for its wood and used to create a family room: a room where each fallen Rookwood could be honored.

This tradition continues for centuries. The campaign begins in 1972, when the last four Rookwoods deviate from their presumed destiny. The most recent generation of the family finds the business of monster hunting to be far too strange and traumatic. They avoid all things supernatural. Gail and Penny lost both parents to monster hunting as teenagers. Their uncle, Virgil, retired from traveling the world to care for them. Later, Gail had a son, J.C., and married Dr. Alistair Lavalle.

Curse is set in 1972 in New Haven, Connecticut.

The Characters

Virgil Rookwood

Cameo portrait of Virgil Rookwood by Chelsea Riexinger.

Virgil is the reluctant patriarch and eldest member of the Rookwood family. Born in 1900, he grew up fascinated by Tesla and all things electric. His curse manifested at the famous Wardenclyffe tower. He is the first of his family to manifest the curse of the lightning struck, which gives him power over electricity. This manifests itself through Lichtenberg scars and a perpetually static touch. Though he cared for Gail and Penny after their parents’ deaths, Virgil doesn’t take on a particularly fatherly role in the family. He prefers to keep to himself in his lab, though he makes sure J.C. knows the family history even through Gail’s constant attempts to suppress this information.

Gail Rookwood

Cameo portrait of Gail Rookwood by Chelsea Riexinger.

Gail is the current head of the Rookwood family. She is greatly concerned with the family’s image and her social role in the upper echelons of New England high society. After a string of failed romances, she had her son, Jeremy “J.C.” Most recently, she married Dr. Alistair Lavalle, renown psychologist. Gail is the main force in the family suppressing all things weird and supernatural. If it were up to Gail, no one would think the Rookwoods were anything but the perfect family. Though she tries to hide it, Gail suffers from the curse of the gaping maw. This grants her the ability to swallow large objects whole, but her hunger is never satisfied. Her curse is marked by her signature raspy voice.

Penelope “Penny” Rookwood

Cameo portrait of Penelope Rookwood by Chelsea Riexinger.

Penny is Gail’s younger sister. Though she is a doting aunt to J.C., one of her favorite hobbies is bothering Gail. She has a playful relationship with her uncle, and like with Gail, she prefers an adversarial relationship with Alistair. Penny’s curse, the curse of the rookery, grants her powers over birds. She uses the family’s ravens and crows to spy on the others and feed the family gossip to J.C. Her birds also help to indulge her kleptomania, a mark of her curse. Outside of the family, Penny has a job as a secretary at a real estate firm where she has a flirtatious relationship with one of her sister’s ex-boyfriends. Though Penny shares her sister’s aversion to the supernatural, she is much more likely to indulge in the strange, particularly when it comes to her black-feathered friends.

Jeremy “J.C.” Rookwood

Cameo portrait of Jeremy Rookwood by Chelsea Riexinger.

Jeremy is the very definition of a teenage loner. He has very few friends, a strained relationship with his mother, and a strong desire to be anywhere but home. Being a seventeen-year-old in a family like the Rookwoods has forced J.C. to grow up quickly due to the tragedy and trauma that comes along with being part of a cursed family. J.C. has developed into a person who keeps himself safe at the cost of his relationships with other people. Though he has a decent relationship with his Great Uncle Virgil and a positive relationship with Aunt Penny, he feels there’s nothing that’s worth staying in New Haven. J.C. developed the curse of the mocking visage, a curse that gives him powers involving mirrors. However, he’s mostly kept this a secret. In fact, most of his family has not noticed the mark of his curse: his appearance has reversed into a mirror image. But, in his opinion, the real “curse” is being part of this highly-dysfunctional family.

Dr. Alistair Lavalle

Cameo portrait of Alistair Lavalle by Chelsea Riexinger.

Dr. Alistair Lavalle, Psy.D emigrated to America after a tumultuous upbringing. Wanting to make a name for himself, he decided to infiltrate the Rookwood family to write a book about the family’s “shared psychosis”. He targeted Gail Rookwood as a love interest and married her shortly thereafter. He slowly integrated into the family and studied them while doing so. His discoveries became, in a word, undiagnosable. Being that he only married into the family, Alistair has no curse.

The Cast

Fiona L.F. Kelly – The Chronicler

Fiona is a professional writer and editor living in Cleveland, Ohio with her partner, cat, and many house plants. She is the current editor-in-chief at Project Derailed. She has published numerous articles about all things gaming and pop culture on websites all across the internet. She was also a writer for the latest edition of Trinity Continuum: Aberrant. In addition to her writing and editing, she has also been a guest and host on several podcasts. She hosts the Project Derailed podcast Big Streaming Pile and plays the githyanki pirate Rav’nys on Tales of the Voidfarer.

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram and check out her website. Buy her a coffee.

Nick Uroseva – Virgil Rookwood

Nick is a web marketing professional and graphic designer and the current creative director of Project Derailed. When he’s not doing game jams, tweeting about Critical Role, playing Dungeons & Dragons, or enjoying a craft beer, he’s busy being the dungeon master of the Spelljammer-inspired podcast Tales of the Voidfarer. In addition to Voidfarer and Fables, Nick has been a guest on a number of other podcasts.

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and check out his website. Buy him a coffee.

Chelsea Riexinger – Gail Rookwood

Chelsea is an artist, writer, and candle maker. She has a great deal of experience playing and game mastering tabletop RPGs in a multitude of settings. Chelsea created most of the artwork for Curse and though this is her first experience being on a podcast, it won’t be her last. Chelsea has also been a guest on Project Derailed’s Twitch streams.

Buy her candles from Plot Kindling Candles and follow her on Twitter.

Annie Kimmel – Penny Rookwood

Annie is a tabletop RPG enthusiast and bibliophile. A voracious reader, Annie is one half of the Instagram account and soon-to-be podcast 2BookishBabes. When she isn’t snuggling her fur baby, Gizmo, or reading the latest YA novel, Annie can be found picking out dice sets for her Dungeons & Dragons characters. Annie can always tell you with confidence that the book was definitely better than the movie.

Follow her on Twitter.

Daniel Walker – J.C. Rookwood

Daniel is an avid tabletop RPG player. He has experience both as a player and as a game master. He enjoys making elaborate schemes for his characters and tricking his friends both in and out of games. Daniel has appeared on Project Derailed Twitch streams in addition to his role on this podcast.

Garrett Kimmel – Alistair Lavalle

Garrett is a musician and social worker from Ohio. He plays bass in the band Northern Weather, collects vinyl records, and regularly plays tabletop roleplaying games. Garrett has also taken his turn behind the screen, running both homebrew games and pre-written adventures. His other hobbies including brewing his own beer, traveling, and cheering on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Fiona L.F. Kelly (@FionaLFKelly)
Fiona L.F. Kelly is a writer, editor, and podcaster. She has published numerous articles about all things gaming and pop culture on websites all across the internet, was also a writer for Trinity Continuum: Aberrant 2e, and has been published in books and magazines. She is an editor for the pop culture and media website GeekGals.co. In addition to her writing and editing, she has also been a guest and host on several podcasts. She hosts the Project Derailed podcast Big Streaming Pile, produces and performs on Fables Around the Table, and plays the githyanki pirate Rav’nys on Tales of the Voidfarer. Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/fionalfkelly

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