Writer Interview: Marco Rafalà

Marco Rafalà wrote Horror at Herrogate, one of the BEOWULF: Age of Heroes adventures featured in Trials of the Twin Seas. We’re going to ask him a few questions about that process.

Handiwork Games (HW): Marco, you’ve got a lot of experience in the roleplaying game field. What’s your favourite kind of project to work on?

Marco Rafalà (MR): I love writing anything for tabletop roleplaying games, but the one aspect I enjoy the most is writing adventures. That’s when I can let my imagination run free. But it’s also challenging, because you want to create a complete and living story — everything from NPCs to plot hooks and world-building — while still giving GMs and players the opportunity to make the story their own. It’s fun to figure out how to strike the right balance between providing a strong scenario without railroading players.

HW: Without spoiling things too much, what would you say is the main theme of the adventure?

MR: At its heart, I’d say Horror at Herrogate is about the power of myth, the importance of self-acceptance, and the pain of not living our authentic self. In the adventure, as in life, no one is ever quite what they appear at first glance. There’s who we truly are, then there are the stories we tell about ourselves as we try to live up to the expectations that others have for us, and the choices we make to try to meet those expectations.

HW: Which came first, the monster, or the plot that explains and ‘motivates’ the monster?

MR: This is a hard one, as they are so intertwined. But, if we’re getting down to the nitty gritty, the monster came first and then the backstory to understand the monster continued to shape the creature into what it is now.

HW: Which is your favourite NPC in the adventure? Can you explain a bit why?

MR: If I had to choose only one NPC, I would say Hilda the Spear. Hilda has a rich backstory that is intertwined with all the events that precede the adventure, and thus plays a pivotal role in the narrative. She also has her own arc as a character, as well as plenty of surprises in store for the players.

HW: Did you have a chance to playtest the adventure, or run it for anyone, or observe a play-through? Any special highlights or funny moments?

MR: Watching the Campaign Coin’s actual play on YouTube was a real highlight for me, especially at the end of the final episode when Mark Morrison (the GM) gave me a shout-out and praised the adventure and cast of characters, calling it “a gift.” I nearly fell out of my chair! Renowned in the tabletop roleplaying game industry for his work for Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu (Horror on the Orient Express, Terror Australis, and Reign of Terror to name a few), I’ve long admired Mark’s work. It was a true fan moment, watching him bring the Horror at Herrogate to life. His high praise left me speechless and full of joy.

HW: Do you have any advice for a player about to take on this adventure, or for a GM about to run it?

MR: I would suggest approaching the adventure as a limited run psychological horror series. Lean into the atmosphere and mystery. Lonely cliffs. Angry seas. Looming gray skies. And everyone holding fast to their secrets.

Horror at Herrogate will be one of the adventures featured in Trials of the Twin Seas, a full-colour hardcover collection of our BEOWULF adventures. Sign up for the forthcoming Kickstarter here!