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Minireview: Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor (Monsters and Other Childish Things)

Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor, written by Benjamin Baugh, is based on “Monsters and Other Childish Things”. It’s not really an expansion book as such, more a standalone campaign/setting which uses a tweaked version of the Monsters rules. Where Monsters has you play children with monster friends, here the PCs are all orphan children, sent to the dismal Candlewick orphanage. There is also something strange and disturbing about all of the (PC) children, so instead of external monsters we have internal ones. Well, mostly internal, the setting also features quite a few external ones…

It’s a crazy quilt of all sorts of Tim Burton movies, the “Series of Unfortunate Events” books, and various other such sources. The town of Candlewick just oozes Burton-style weird details, and also contains secrets galore. One of the main goals of the PCs is to figure out who and what they are, and figure out details about their past. The players don’t know these details at character creation, instead the GM slowly figures them out and makes them parts of the plot. As for the game itself, the plots depend a lot on the player group and GM. but the default assumption is to highlight the alienation of (very!) weird kids in a remote and insular seaside town, possible bullying from other more “normal” kids, and Scooby Doo -style adventures, with a dark twist. And of course, they are all orphans… or are they?

It’s a brilliant game. It takes a great game foundation from Monsters and does something quite different with it. This is pretty much “A Series of Unfortunate Events, the RPG”… or it can be. It can also be lots of other things, assuming the GM likes the semi-Gothic setting presented here. The book contains a ton of background info about the town and the inhabitants, most of which have dark secrets of their own. Each inhabitant is a walking plot hook, and there are plenty of other plot hooks to draw from, too. Highly recommended.

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