July 2017 RPG Blog Carnival: Doomsdays & Dystopias (Dark Genres and Settings)

Abandoned Environment Concept tutorial by maciejkuciara

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.)

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Bizarre Bazaar Forever – Even More Planar Items!

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Welcome back, weary traveler!  Please, as always, you are more than welcome to observe my inventory.  Should anything be particularly fascinating to you, signal me and I’d be happy to tell you more!  Of course, some of these artifacts are VERY dangerous and should be handled with care.  Fortunately for you, the GREAT Zam’dul is happy to provide assistance!

Author’s Note: Making magic items from around the planes remains to be one of the most fun topics for me to tackle.  As such, I really wanted to return to it so soon.  With that, enjoy another sampling of weirdness from many a reality.

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Oath of the Blasphemer – A Blackguard Oath for D&D 5th Edition

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For some, the antipaladin and the oathbreaker represents a fall from grace.  These are the exiles and the heretics whom must be stopped at all costs!  But, what happens when an entire oath is distorted by gradual influence of the darkness itself?  The Order of the Blasphemer is one such atrocity that arises.  These distorted paladins have lost their way much like the blackguard, but are convinced they serve a divine or holy cause.  This could be from sheer madness or from a dark revelation that the order itself is corrupt.

While many devotees of dark forces are aware of how far from grace they have fallen, the blasphemer order is tragic and ironic in their ignorance.  Driven mad by their past oaths and ideals, they have become delusional in the corruption they carry.  Many mad blasphemers have reached a level of insanity typical in the most devout of abyssal followers as a result of their broken minds doing all they can to refute their wretched existence.  Those who manage to break free of their mania typically become oathbreakers.  Some try to atone and become cynics.  The rest die from despair or failure to absolve themselves of their sins.

Author’s Note: Ah, deconstructing the Paladin… it’s always fun!  As written above, I’ve done this before with the Cynic.  Here, I have a new twist on the antipaladin/blackguard, a reluctant one who clings onto their old hopes and views while unwittingly (or perhaps willingly) committing great evil.  Also, take note!  This concept was an experimental idea I came up with to expand the oathbreaker archetype.  Some of the ideas are volatile and will be patched up in the weeks following.  Also, the original idea was far closer to Artorias from Dark Souls, but I figured it would have been too much of an homage.  But enough from me, subscribe today and a faustian bargain can be yours!

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Graveyard Tyrant, Divine Atrocity & More – FromSoft inspired Horrors for D&D 5th Edition

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There is a certain darkness that lurks within our multiverse.  Great beings of power hold dominion over reality, creating guardians to defend their reign.  Likewise, powerful mortals meld conviction, innovation and craft to create a testament to their beliefs  Among them are foul creatures that epitomize forces of corruption.  These creatures are born out of hatred, malice, destruction, tyranny, bedlam and a wide variety of other horrid acts and negative emotions.  However, many of these fell beings were forged from the best intentions.  Purity, piety, justice, liberty, order, compassion, knowledge; all desires to improve or better understand the worlds around us.  However, positive intentions are distorted by extremes and turn into unending nightmares unforeseen by the perpetrators.

Where kindness and creativity go awry, cruel and unspeakable monsters arise.  All are the embodiment of some ideal that has turned horribly wrong.  Spiritual powers of nature contorted into vicious beasts, an arbiter judge of the dead turned callous taker of souls, the most virtuous and divine being unraveled and maddened by the abyss, those dedicated to a cause pursuing their quest into the depths of insanity.  Such tragic horrors are just examples of great power that falls from grace.  These beings were not meant to be or not meant to become this way.  The Divine Atrocity is the desecration of nature by its own followers, The Graveyard Tyrant is death’s hatred for the living taking hold of the land, The https://i2.wp.com/img03.deviantart.net/9c58/i/2014/243/d/8/bloodborne___cleric_beast_by_artsed-d7xeote.jpgDemon-Shackled is a fell knight who gave up on all that is sacred for the Abyssal chaos they fought, the Sundered Saint is the deranged remains of a faithful being driven insane by their convictions and goals.  Thus, a swift death is a true act of mercy when it comes to their existence.

These sacrilegious mistakes often haunt wastelands plagued by far worse evils.  The entropic decay and destruction only serves to empower these tainted powers.  Mad cults, other beings born of the same madness as such abortions of science and arcana.  They pose a challenge to any crusader, chosen one or hunter foolish enough to get in their way.  In some cases, the very land around these abominations conspires against those who bring their wicked masters any harm.  These soulless forgeries of life seek to destroy all those who oppose their sick mutation, those who defy their damnation, those who defend against their twisted ways.

Author’s Note:  I wasn’t really happy with these creations, initially.  So, I figured they were both due for an update.   We’ve had horrors from the mists, some classic dark fantasy and a bit of weird western and steampunk for good measure too!  So, I’ve done all I can to expand my “Gaslamp and Gothic” theme to it’s fullest.  On that note, the other reason I wanted to do this is a tribute to the gaming series/multiverse I love so much.  The Souls games (and Bloodborne) are coming to an end for the time being, so polishing some homages is fitting tribute.  Here’s my take on Grave Lord Nito and Cleric Beast in D&D 5E.  In addition, I create some extra content to commemorate Dark Souls III and make general homage to all of the Souls games (including Demon’s Souls).  And as always, the mad rambling prose is in part thanks to my love of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem and of course, H.P. Lovecraft.  The first three monsters are directly inspired by various creatures, while the third is a general homage to several beings from the series.

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Curse of Undeath – A Dark Souls-inspired mechanic

“Yooou who reeeekindle the Flaaaame, embraaaaccceee deeaatttthhhh!”

Sometimes, the sweet embrace of death is all but impossible for countless damned souls.  They are forced to continue to walk a dark path.  For them, they seek to regain an essence of life and restore their shattered minds, lest they be lost to an abyss of emptiness and madness.  Such a curse can be from a variety of sources; an exploitation of a life source at a deific level, exposure to/using evil magics for too long, a hex brought upon by a powerful caster or even a destructive force bent on draining life from all reality.

The Curse of Undeath is a vile magical power that breaks the soul and leaves the body as little more than a husk.  These drained husks share little with their once living counterparts.  They are merely corpses controlled and warped by dread energy.  Any remnants of mind left in these creatures are stretched to madness and driven to violence.  While many of them retain enough knowledge to fight as though could in life, it is impossible for them to engage in rational dialogue let alone interact peacefully.

Author’s Note:  Dark Souls III is out and I love it!  With that, here’s an optional rule for handling a curse similar to the Undead of the Dark Souls universe.  If you don’t want to literally be running Dark Souls, it shouldn’t be too hard to reflavor this into a different dread curse of sorts.  If you’ve ever played Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Anthony’s chapter certainly comes to mind.  One last disclaimer, these are mostly random ideas in my head, in an attempt to make a Dark Souls inspired mechanic.  As such, it’s more than likely that this idea is a bit clunky.  It will probably receive a revision in the future, if reader interest is there.

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Divine Atrocity – A Massive Beastly Terror for D&D 5th Edition

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Across the multiverse, priests of nature show their devotion to bountiful realms untouched by civilization and the divine powers that tend to them.  Many of these priests make pilgrimages to distant demiplanes dedicated to these powers.  The Demiplane of Nature is a realm of such untouched wilderness and raw magical power.  However, many dark forces seek to harness and corrupt it.  As such, a dark reflection of this domain was created, much to the ignorance of those who worship the forces of nature.  When the corrupted wild plane reaches a faithful before the pure version, it taints their soul, maddens their mind and warps their body.  Victims become horrible monsters, with nature priests and druids being the most heavily afflicted.  Among them is a massive nightmare deemed the “Divine Atrocity.”  This hulking beast was likely one of many important high priests dedicated to the plane, before being turned into a savage horror.  Infection could be from the plane’s dark mirror feeding off of the victim’s hatred, perhaps a corruption within the blood itself.

Divine Atrocities dwell in lands of horrific plagues, planar incursions of the fey or of beasts, or sites of heavy lycanthropy.  While lesser creatures create a nightmare for the remaining residents, these abominations help to wipe out any straggler still caught in the streets.  Fortunately, these beings are a rare sight.  This is in part because prolonged exposure to extreme corrupt energy was the main cause of these nightmares and most victims die long before turning into something like the Atrocity.  However, there is a fear that dwells among many.  As many nature-based societies come under attack by more technological societies, many will likely fall to that hatred that spawned such dread monsters.  And such, a war against civilization will likely escalate to frightening new extremes.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  I made a creation based on Nito from Dark Souls, so I figure it would be more than fair to tackle an awesome boss from Bloodborne as well.  Or rather, taking inspiration and applying it to my setting’s planar cosmology a little bit.  Who knows?  If my FromSoft inspired monsters prove popular, I might make more!

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The Graveyard Tyrant – An Amalgam horror for D&D 5th Edition

NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE

Throughout the ages, many places of rest are long since forgotten.  Eventually, departed souls come to realize they too have been forgotten.  In self-pity and despair, they either continue to haunt these grounds or return from the afterlife.  Eventually, these souls bond together as their hatred and sorrow grow, slowly fusing with the forsaken ground as well.  A hivemind made of dirt, bone and soul arises to bring forth legions of undead to chastise the living.  These creatures are known as Graveyard Tyrants, commanding waves of undead horrors while seeking to control the living out of a sense of vengeance.  These tyrants often stir where cemeteries once stood, watching them with a sense of duty and honor; as they feel no one will tend to the grounds besides them.  While they have a great hatred towards living creatures, they have a connection to the realm where they were spawned and will do anything they can to protect it.

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