Public Domain Protagonists

I have noticed with interest lately that we’re getting more releases and WIPs now where the player is playing a take on an established character from fiction who is in the public domain. Guinevere and Mordred from Authurian Myth, Odysseus and Oedipus from Greek Myth, Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Mina Murray from Dracula to name a few. It’s definitely an interesting idea getting to put your own stab on such iconic characters, both heroes and villains. I am also curious what other options there might be that would work well?

One idea I have for a while is Nemo. He (or possibly She in the game) is possibly of Indian descent (though a game could let you decide that) but is otherwise a fair bit of a mystery outside their detachment with humanity and their evident hatred of Imperialism. A game that lets you play out their childhood and rise to becoming the Captain of the Nautilus could make for an interesting experience, especially since it’s hard to define Nemo as traditionally depicted as either a hero or villain.

Another thought I had was the trio of villains of late Victorian fiction - Dracula, Professor James Moriarty and Fu Manchu (or the Devil Doctor of Limehouse if we’re going more politically correct) as rivals in London. Of course clearly we have Dracula as a character in the Mina Murray game, but games perhaps interconnected where you play as these three villains and determine their nature could work well, or alternatively a game where you have to face all of them. The main issue probably with Manchu would be clearly showing him as a character in his own nature rather than some depiction of all Chinese migrants to the city at the time.

Those are two ideas I had about public domain characters. Who else would work? I would have suggested Robin Hood too but he has several games done or in possible development…


As an ethnic Chinese, I for one would definitely like to see more of Fu Manchu. I know he was originally just a racial stereotype, but by that logic most of Aladdin’s characters shouldn’t be politically correct either. I’d love to see more representation in villains.


I’d love to see a take on Frankenstein where your choices can actually influence how the story plays out (if you can save certain characters from death, have a relationship with the Monster that determines his/her actions).

I don’t know of any Robin Hood ChoiceScript games and would also love to see a take on that. The characters can be fascinating and the central conflict is very translatable into a game (if your “suspicion in Sherwood” rises, the Sheriff comes a-knocking) and I imagine a management system to survive winters similar to Choice of Rebels.

I know we have A Study in Steampunk and would love to see more Sherlock, especially gender-variable Sherlock/Watson.

More fairytales, too, like the comic book Fables involving characters like the Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, the Little Mermaid, and etc. would be very cool.


Who Was The Real Robin Hood? is a published one, I believe.

I’d like to see an Alice in Wonderland inspired CSG - do we have any of those yet?


One of my potential next projects is a frankenstein one where the opening chapter you are the doctor and then you take control of the monster.

Another one is based off Jekyll and Hyde.


I’d love to see some public domain characters, and one other thing that would be really cool would be to see some historical characters. People like Napoleon, Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, Caesar, etc have thousands of possible stories you could craft around them (some of which have already been made.


These are all fantastic ideas!

Glad to know someone feels that way. I think it’s clear that whilst he could be easily seen as a representation of the fear of the British Empire (themselves not exactly squeaky clean) of Chinese influences and Orientalist thinking at the time, Fu is essentially a individual crime boss and a fearsome opponent to any heroes of Victorian London, British or otherwise. So a game with him could easily include plenty of Asian characters as allies and the option to play as one too to rectify any concerns.

I believe Inkle Studios actually adapted Frankenstein into an interactive novel, but a story where you switched between the Doctor and the ‘monster’ is an interesting one. I suppose that Mysteries of Baroque touched on some of it but still.

Love it! I think Jean has often spoken about doing a Robin Hood game to take a break from Guen where you can pick Robin’s gender and all the Merry Men’s too.

It does surprise me we’ve yet to see a straight Sherlock Holmes game yet. It’s easy given the range of variation on the characters in recent years to see what could be done with the pair. Study in Steampunk is an awesome Watson simulation though! :grin:

Would happily play both of these!

We have seen some history based games in recent years but ones where you play as some or even could romance them with the right context could be interesting.


You know, I’ve always been really surprised there’s never been one where you play as Merlin. (Anyone read the crystal cave series? Or even the short '98 Merlin miniseries. A game about the rise of Merlin could be amazing.) Also in the Dracula vein, I’ve been kind of surprised no one’s picked up Van Helsing for a game. (Particularly as he’s got a movie interpretation.) Anyway, heaps of great public domain characters to choose from out there :slight_smile:


Not a CSG, but there’s a really great Robin Hood visual novel in dev right now called Made Marion. (I’m not involved in any way; I just really loved the demo.) I love the setting though, and I agree it would be a good choice for a CSG.

Peter Pan is in the public domain isn’t it? I’d love to see something set in Neverland.

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Unfortunatelly, because of other responsibilities, I had to suspend work on my ChoiceScript projects, but I want to pick them up again eventually. Two of which are based off on public domain characters.

One story is based on H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha and the other is a historically inacurate retelling of the War of Canudos.

The public domain is such a treasure trove.


I’m actually already following the development blog for this game, haha! :eyes: I haven’t tried the demo yet but it looks amazing!

A Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland game (especially following an adult Peter/Alice/Wendy) would be amazing!

Was this the series by T.A. Barron? I know he did at least two Merlin series—“the lost years of Merlin” as a CSG would be pretty amazing!

Other public domain franchises: The Wizard of Oz and—wait for it—King Kong lol!


No haven’t seen that one, will have to look it up :smiley:
The ones I read were from a while back by Mary Stewart. (The first one was published back in the 70’s so they’ve been around for quite a while.)

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I remember now, I read those books a LONG time ago! I barely remember anything about them except that he falls in love with his apprentice Niniane and I was shook at the time!

…Someone a Merlin game, please! :joy: Or just a general Avalon one… :eyes:

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I genuinely had no clue King Kong was public domain. The random things I learn on a daily basis…

Also, @Jacic, I would venture a guess that the main reason no one’s picked up Van Helsing is that generally speaking, he’s not a very flexible character. He’s an older doctor fellow who hates vampires and kills them. While you can certainly put a spin on that, and I’m sure someone will, it’s not a very universalizing starting point.

Well I know of this one: Merlin: Origins


I think Tarzan is also in the public domain at this point, though I might be wrong.

Wizard of Oz and Kong are ones people should be cautious about adapting since elements from the most iconic movies about them aren’t all in the books…

Or he’s a crossbow shooting angel with no memory who looks like Hugh Jackman :grin: The good thing about public domain characters is you can pickn them up and tweak them into whatever you want to make the story your own if you want to.

Someone did try one for HG. (The name escapes me.)


I think it was called NE by NW Oz.

And this is true of a lot of public domain characters. Frankenstein’s monster is in the public domain, but the image/interpretation of him having a flat head, green-gray skin, big forehead, scars, and bolts in his neck is owned by Universal Studios.


Now that’s interesting. I’ve always wondered about Professor Moriarty’s rise to power. Could make for an interesting CS game.

But…can we make Moriarty gender-changable? Or someone of a different gender who poses as a male? Or is it fixed by ACD?

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You can do what ever you want with a public domain character :slight_smile: Either make them super faithful to the source material, or change them up however you like.

Yeah that’s one thing you have to be super careful about if using public domain material, as it’s likely others have also used it and copyrighted their version of the character.

For example a game based on this little mermaid is absolutely fine

But if you use elements from this movie you’ll get sued by Disney’s rather considerable legal team even though it too got its inspiration from the fairy tale above.