While I enjoy tons of heroic settings with noble characters ensuring good in the world, I’ve always loved truly grim and dour settings. I speak of worlds that fit the “GRIMDARK” moniker that’s been affectionately used. For those who don’t get the reference, it refers to Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K tagline, which states that “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war!” I’m speaking of places blighted by impossible evils, dystopias where any sort of righteousness and passion is repressed, a sinister universe that is out to destroy you, nuked out wastelands where the remains of society struggle to continue or scrap the last bits of the old ones… but you get the point.
So, why is my theme essentially “dark settings and dark themes”? Sounds depressing, I know. After all, spending too much time in an overly dark and oppressive world can wear one down, right? Not exactly! There are many reasons why dark settings are truly fascinating. Before I turn the carnival over to you, let’s take a look at why starker settings can be awesome. (Or if you prefer, skip down to the bold text.)
Even vampirism has evolved alongside growing technologies…
“Magick…” he grumbles in a hoarse whisper to himself, “the force we all thought would hamper progress. And here we are, traveling the stars with it.” Letting out a sigh, he pushes his hovering seat away from a messy desk. “If we were truly destined to separate ourselves from magick, the horrible monsters would have been vanquished long ago… not terraforming entire planets.” The man slightly grips his teeth as he rises from the floating chair, joints popping from ache and wear. The spacefaring man gazes into a mirror before continuing to shuffle. The marks of fatigue and age on his face contrast the shining gleam of his badges, reflecting light from the ‘glow panels’ dotting the ceilings and hallways throughout the vessel. Over towards a huge glass pane, the elder military man observes systems of stars with planets seemingly nestled in perfect viewing spots by ancient giants or celestial creatures. “And this ship, it has served more of a home for me than it deserves. But, through the mad crusades and bloody combat, it has served me well.” The tranquility of an empty space fades as ships pull into view, built with alien geometries and operating through impossible physics, they charge weaponry for an epic battle. The man cracks a faint grin as similar weaponry opens fire on the enemy crafts.
The worlds of magic and monsters don’t need to end when civilizations have advanced themselves into new eras; feudal worlds give way to industrial, which give way to information, which give way to hypothetical new technologies that Earth can only speculate about. Even a world of fantasy can and should advance and change with the flow of time. All too often do these worlds stagnate in the endless mush of quasi-medieval high fantasy. Now, this isn’t to say that such a thing can’t be good and doesn’t still have a place. It’s just that for many fans of the genre, such things have grown stale and resistance to change.
In a fantasy future, adventurers will continue to carry on their business. Perhaps new sanctions are in effect and new regulations are in place. However, there are still dens filled with malicious monsters and strange sights to behold. There are gnoll raiders who operate miniguns instead of wield war-axes, elementals from a plane composed of radiation, beholders who bolster their psychic power through cybernetic enhancements, orcish biker gangs terrorizing the streets through their “hover hogs” and much more. Granted, most of these will not be appearing in the article below. However, they are ideas on how someone can twist a classic monster for a more Modern/Sci-Fi inspired setting.
Author’s Note: I figured this is a great way to close out the theme, a look at some classic monsters transferred to a new genre. And by this, I mean transferring classic D&D monsters into classic (as well as some less standard) science fiction. Also, please don’t mind the cheesy space-opera-meets-D&D blurb from up above. I’m not quite what I’d call a writer, but I figured it would be a fun change of pace.
“Voracx Corp seems to have everything! The idea of planar travel blew peoples’ minds, but that’s just the beginning! I’ve seen prints for machines that can traverse time, travel to locked dimensions, and even locate worlds that simply shouldn’t be. If you allow me to lead, we can show those lunatics a thing or two about preventing their apocalypse!” – Arlon Devan, Human Covert Infiltrator.
Your purpose is typically two-fold; espionage and scavenging. Perhaps you have a role in stealing prototypes and blueprints to secret technology. Maybe you’re a wasteland raider whose trying to salvage lost technology for profit or for personal use. Either way, your knowledge of subterfuge and tinkering have proved to be very useful skills of survival. However, there’s a market for folks like you who help “share” ideas. After all, if competition can get away with copying an idea without proof, it’s all the better. As for yourself? Something has changed you; augmentations, exposure to magic or radiation, or something else entirely. Or maybe you’re a top notch spy with an arsenal of gadgets to boot! Either way, as long as you keep to the shadows, nothing can stop you. Continue reading