Howard David Ingham
Tabletop role-playing games have been, much like folk horror, undergoing something of a renaissance in the last few years – Dungeons and Dragons, the grandfather of them all, sold more copies in 2017 than ever before – and that’s spilled over into all sorts of niche games, which address all sorts of genres. Games like Fiasco and Apocalypse World and its offshoots (which include Monsterhearts, and Dungeon World) have huge followings now, driven by vibrant online communities. But with this exciting growth in the scop of RPGs, I never really felt anyone had yet made a satisfactory folk horror game. I’ve been designing RPGs professionally for over a decade now and I’ve had work appear in about 50 RPG books for various published. A couple of years ago, I created Chariot, a complex and very personal game set in an occultist’s Atlantis, with a system driven by Tarot cards. I learnt a lot from that game, and with my folk horror obsession in full swing, I recently started to think hard about what a folk-horror RPG would look like.
So I wrote The Shivering Circle.
I wanted to create a game with a sort of home-made feeling to it, where you play ordinary people with ordinary desires and fears, but which also had a sense of grim inevitability (after all, like poor Neil Howie, or Jay the Hitman, it was you they wanted all along). In The Shivering Circle, named for a stone monument that has the peculiar effect of making you feel very cold if you’re standing in the middle of it, we briefly visit the Hoddesham Down and the nearby communities of Hoddesford and Hoddeston. Here, the (illegal) local hunt meet finds other animals to pursue, a shaggy, shadowy figure whispers terrible ideas to the downtrodden kids on the local estate, a craggy-faced rural austringer has lived in the same shed for 200 years, and you can visit the Charity Shop of the Damned. I wanted to sketch a place you could visit, that felt real, and to bring out the way in which folk horror juxtaposes the prosaic and the uncanny, and perhaps attempt to infuse it with the cynical humour of Nigel Kneale, Ben Wheatley and The League of Gentlemen. The Hoddesham Down has its share of ghosts, but then everywhere in Britain does – we live on an island where there are no untrodden places, only abandoned ones.These ghosts are as commonplace as the cup of tea on the table by the armchair where sits the corpse.
In The Shivering Circle, you’ll find a filmography, with many of the usual suspects on it, and a section of the text – the meat of the rules text – licensed under a Creative Common Attribution Licence, meaning that anyone who wants to publish their own, compatible game using the same rules, they’re welcome to. I did that because I’d love to see other writers in the community produce games set in other folk horror settings – perhaps in American or Australian, or European, or Asian settings.
The Shivering Circle is available in digital format (and soon in print) at drivethrurpg.com/product/237130/The-Shivering-Circle
Howard Ingham blogs regularly at Room207Press.com