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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More DOOM Monsters!

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Incoming transmission! “There’s even more of them captain!  We thought we were finished, but they’ve only just unleashed even more of the damned things upon us!  Many of these wretched hell things feel even stronger than the last ones we fought!  We can’t hold out for mu-” Transmission ended!

Author’s Note:  Sorry for being late on this one.  I found out last minute that my group wanted to postpone my game, so I would have had a game synopsis last week.  I also got very sick following a busy work week.  With that, here’s a handful of more DOOM monsters.  I might do an update later on with another popular monster in mind… Arachnotron… Mancubus… Something like that!

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Monsters of DOOM, Revisited

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Hell.  Many thought of it as a mere theological concept, written in ancient scripture.  A team of scientists, corporate representatives and military conglomerates one day discovered that there was so much more.  On martian base, an experiment was conducted to reach into other realities.  They got an alternate dimension the denizens called Hell.  Perhaps it wasn’t what many considered, but Hell had come to that reality and tore it asunder.  Thanks to the impossible efforts of one space marine, referred to as “The Doom Guy”, the forces were pushed out of our world… for what we hoped was for good.

Since that incident, the malevolent armies of this underworld realm have discovered other Prime Material Planes and have continued a campaign of multiversal conquest!  Parallel realities and other planes entirely have faced off against these things.  It has even been rumored that some of these fiendish terrors have faced off in the eternal battleground known as The Blood War.

Author’s Note:  I wasn’t too satisfied with my original creations, so I decided to have a bit of a do over!  On top of that, I wanted to expand the monster list a little more by adding a few essential classic creatures.  Enjoy.

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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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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

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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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Oath of Cynicism – A Morally Grey Paladin Order for D&D 5th Edition

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The stress of knighthood and justice can be too much upon many paladins.  Some crack under the pressure, some face worse.  For those unfortunate souls, they witness tragedy so great that they can no longer see value in “goodness”.  The “Cynics” were formed as a more grey-shaded alternative to the “Order of Goodness” that is the traditional paladin.  The Cynic believes that absolute order is the only method of achieving justice.  For them, protecting the minds of the innocent from things that would destroy them is for the best, even if that leaves them ignorant.  To the cynic, “Good and Evil” are a means of propaganda that distort and contort law and order to one’s ends.  Cynics hail from far and wide!  From the worshipers of Ilmater from the Forgotten Realms to the Bleak Cabal in Planescape’s Sigil; these dour knights reach the cosmos and beyond.

Tenets of The Cynic

Cynics have became jaded from countless vile atrocities, failures, and tragic events.  As a result, you are quick to judge everything around them with contempt and suspicion, due to traumatic past.  You are slow to trust others and only seem to admire maintaining order above all.  You are typically lawful neutral, but lawful good and lawful evil cynics are not unheard of either.

Mistrust – Never accept something at face value, don’t trust it either.  Only a fool would blindly accept the world without questioning it, lest they become a victim.  Without a bitter perspective on life, you could be used by false pretenses like morality and mercy.  Only law should be observed with respect, but it’s not above questioning.

Rationality – Your sense of passion and joy have long since been dashed, but you have no time to brood or sulk about it.  Instead, you are cold and pragmatic.  You try to observe things from a deeply thought driven perspective rather than through emotions.

Existentialism – We live in a world where conflicting viewpoints butt heads in the name of the absurd.  Your viewpoint is no different, just self-aware.  Do not fear death, for it shall one day unite us all.

Stoicism – Chaos runs rampant in the world.  Try as you may, you cannot defeat it.  At most, you can hope to spread balance.  In the end, the universe shall to do you as it pleases.

Conspiracy – Just as your order is a secret, there are things in the multiverse we aren’t meant to know!  We must keep this information away from the innocent and even destroy this information if need be.
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