Kernow - Setting Information

Sometimes the legends are true.
Lewis' campaign using Chill/The Beast Within rules. Cornwall in the Year of Our Lord 1699 - a land unto itself, a county of wild coasts, desolate moors, haunted tin-mines, drowned kingdoms, secret valleys, wreckers, ghosts, highwaymen, pirates, piskies and just maybe... the last of the giants!
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Kernow - Setting Information

Postby Lewis » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:33 pm

Cornwall is pre-eminently the region of dream and mystery.
(Thomas Hardy, Victorian novelist)

The campaign takes place largely in and around the Duchy of Cornwall in the Year of Our Lord 1699. You can assume that all major historic events, such as the English Civil Wars in the middle of the century, the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the introduction of tea to England in 1690 have all taken place, just as they did in the real world.

However, even though King Billy (William of Orange) sits on the thrones of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, the Cornwall of this game is not quite as history would have us believe. The game takes place in a pseudo-historical Cornwall. The sort of Cornwall – or ‘Kernow’ in Cornish - that should have been ... if all the legends and ghost stories were true!

This alternate Cornwall - or Kernow - is a land unto itself, a county of wild coasts, desolate moors, haunted tin-mines, drowned kingdoms, secret valleys, wreckers, ghosts, highwaymen, pirates, piskies and just maybe... the last of the giants!

In “Kernow”, the local people still believe strongly in ghosts and in the presence and power of the 'Pobel Vean' (little people), also known as the ‘Gentle Folk’ or 'Faerie'. They distinguish many types of Faerie creatures. Generally, the Faerie are divided into two factions, Seelie and Unseelie. There are many names for different types of faeiries or elves, from the helpful Bucca to the monstrous and malign Spriggans. The most common name in Cornwall is “Piskies”. Sophisticated visitors from London may dismiss local beliefs as superstitious ignorance – but then they are in for a shock! Sometimes the malign predations of the nastier faeries spell trouble for locals and visitors alike.

However, there are also more mundane perils. Mortals, too, can provide danger for law-abiding citizens. Smuggling is endemic to Cornwall, especially the Scilly Isles. Pirates still raid the English and Bristol Channels. The despised Wreckers lure passing ships onto deadly rocks along Cornwall’s coast in order to loot the cargoes. And Highwaymen are once again becoming a menace!

Likewise, there are more reasons for choosing this setting than the opportunity to play at pirates and smugglers! If I wanted that I could have done a “Pirates of the Caribbean” game and had less explaining to do!

I have chosen Kernow in the twilight of the 17th Century, as it is near enough to us and our time to be familiar and hence to provide recognisable people to rôle-play. On the other hand, it is also different enough to be exotic and fantastical. This is probably the latest period when - and one of the few places in the UK where - I could carry off the central conceit of this campaign. Magical creatures and legendary characters have hung on and survived into the Age of Reason. In Kernow, Science can exist side-by-side with Piskies and Giants – and it doesn’t always triumph! The legendary villains of Cornish folklore, Wicked Tregeagle and Cruel Coppinger are based on real people who lived in the 17th Century.

And remember that Kernow is NOT England. At this time most authorities still quote the King’s dominions as England, Wales, Scotland and Cornwall – afact recognised in the monarch’s oaths up to at least Henry VII. Kernow is remote – many weeks travel from London. And above all, it is a Celtic country, more akin to Wales than England. Its people speak a Celtic language very similar to old Welsh or Breton. The majority of common folk at this time speak only Cornish. The last monoglot Cornish speaker will not die for another century. Even where English is spoken, it is often in the form of Cornish Dialect, which varied from town to town and even trade to trade.

In the twilight of the 17th Century the “Droll Tellers” (the Cornish version of the Welsh Bards) could still be found wandering from village to village trading the telling of standard stories (‘drolls’) around a blazing hearth for an evening’s meal and lodging. From before the remembering of time there have been custodians of an oral tradition in many cultures and particularly among the Celtic peoples. Everyone could recall the stories and rituals but it was always necessary to appoint a wise one as a focus; one who could inform the people who they were and where they had come from, and perhaps where they were bound on the long journey of years.

In Cornwall this tradition was strong up to the advent of writing and recording when it began to fade. Droll Tellers of old would travel around remote farms and villages paying for their night’s lodging with an evening of stories and gossip. They would also be in great demand on feast days in the larger townships. Often modifying the stories according to their audience and circumstances they would keep them alive whilst retaining the essence of each one.

I hope it’s not too pretentious to say that’s partly what I’m trying to achieve with this campaign – a re-telling of the old Cornish legends via the medium of rôle-playing. Hopefully we too will be successful in “...modifying the stories according to the circumstances ... whilst retaining the essence of each one.” Let’s keep the stories alive.

Apart from various collections of folklore and ghost stories, my sources and influences include:

• The Princess Bride
• Pirates of the Caribbean
• Lorna Doone
• Kidnapped
• Treasure Island
• Brotherhood of the Wolf
• Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton version)
• The "Lord Darcy" stories by Randall Garrett

Playing: Telford: Star Wars.
Running: Cannock: Legends of Corwyn/D&D, Telford: Forgotten Realms: Heroes of Faerûn/D&D.
Prepping: Spycraft: Deniables

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