Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sangre y Polvo: Pre-American California Folk-horror Fantasy Hexcrawl

Some thoughts on a setting. A Western, but set in pre-U.S. California/Northern New Spain territories, a psuedo-historic supernatural setting in the mists of misinformation and superstition.

The year is 1794, the King of Spain has issued the forced deportation of Jesuit priests to be replaced by Franciscan and  Dominican monks. Most of California’s Missions are built, expeditions have been sent to explore the vast tracts of wilderness in northern New Spain, Californios begin to build their haciendas and ranchos, and dark things stir in the Wild that the Jesuit priests knew how to handle and the locals wait for the foreign occupiers to be wiped away by their hubris...

Key elements:
  • Wilderness travel and exploration
  • Spanish colonialism and administration, the Bourbon Reforms
  • Catholicism and the Mission system
  • Western tropes subverted to an earlier era
  • Native American folklore
  • Get to use awesome old maps
  • Could even flip the script and have it be secret that it's California until the players realize
  • Intermixing of old world superstitions in a strange new place
  • Slavery and genocide is ubiquitous across the Spanish territories
  • Arcane levels of administration and secrecy handed down from the remote Spanish crown
  • Murmurs of the new nation of the United States, a young republic to the east of the contient
  • Thick of the French Revolution, thoughts of colonial independence fomenting
  • Enlightenment ideas and texts to draw on

This post is one point with its tone. This one has some cool ideas on how to handle player advancement in the context of culturally arbitrated trials. Its basically this idea, but set earlier.

The party could be:

  • Members of the Spanish military on an expedition
  • Monks setting out to found the next Mission
  • Rancheros settling the new county
  • Natives protecting their land and way of life
  • Russian trappers looking to kill big animals to skin them
  • Agents of the French Monarchy, who haven't heard about the Revolution yet

There may be a lot of this, but with monsters


  1. Henry Kuttner's "Bells of Horror" seems like the source of a fine adventure seed (details events in 1775 rather than '94, but hey, why not?).

    1. Thanks for the recommendation!

      Dunkey Halton, the writer of the posts I linked to, also suggested these: The Comanche Empire, by Pekka Hämäläinen and Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon