Development blog by Helen Carmichael, Game Designer
The idea for Shadowhand came from our last game, Regency Solitaire. One of our older Regency characters, Lady Fleetwood, hints at earlier adventures in her youth. Regency Solitaire is set in 1812 – what if we were to find out what Lady Fleetwood was up to some 40 years earlier?
Regency Solitaire is essentially a romance, but Shadowhand is more of a whodunnit/adventure plot. Our female protagonist this time is not looking for love or to sort out her family debt issues. She is an heiress with a complicated family background. The victim of a heist where her close female companion vanishes, Lady Darkmoor is prepared to take matters into her own hands – including duelling and breaking the law – to get to the truth.
Those who have read up a little on 18th century women will know that, while they were strictly controlled by the men in their lives, some of them did get up to remarkable things. Aristocrats acted eccentrically or scandalously, often the subject of gossip and ridicule, but a few managed to weather the storm and get on with their lives nonetheless.
A common theme is that of being incognito: masquerade balls were hugely popular, and were an excuse to get up to mischief under the flimsy pretence of being in disguise.
Cross dressing was another way to get things done: the Chevalier D’Eon dressed as a woman for a spy mission and then continued to dress as a female (on and off, depending on which way the political wind was blowing) for the rest of his life. Women went to sea in breeches to be pirates. Some twenty years earlier, even Bonnie Prince Charlie had dressed as a maid to escape with Flora MacDonald to Skye after the battle of Culloden.
Where Regency’s Bella uses her charm and engages her friends and family to help her achieve her dreams within accepted social norms, Lady Darkmoor creates an alter-ego, Shadowhand, so that she can fight, loot, and move around the less acceptable areas of society more easily. She needs to leap into action immediately following the heist – ditching her dress and grabbing the (recently deceased) coach driver’s breeches.
Have you ever tried to get out of a corset in a hurry without assistance? Reader – I have. I decided that Lady Darkmoor simply wouldn’t have bothered. The resulting outfit is a mixture of male and female outfits from the late 18th century, chosen for practical reasons and expediency.
Fortunately for Shadowhand, she will get a chance to upgrade and improve her costume to make herself increasingly battle-worthy as the story progresses.