July 2017 Blog Carnival – Conflicts in Dark Worlds and Genres

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Welcome back, gamers!  I usually homebrew stuff and this is a complete change of pace for me.  That said, I’ve been meaning to write pieces examining things within games in addition to homebrew.  As it is, I’ve branched out with gaming recaps and those seem to reach some sort of audience, so I’ll continue to experiment.  That said, homebrewing is still my prime focus.

Back on topic, last time I opened up the carnival by looking at why I think people like darker genres and topics in their games!  Today’s post is deeper focus on dark settings in regards to conflict; whether it’s problems from society, the self, the environment or even forces beyond our control.  One can’t have a darker story without extreme conflict, to the point it’s usually quite oppressive, or repressive in some cases.  Sure, there are more examples than what I’m talking about, but I could go on and on about that.  Also, I like rambling some anecdotes about old games I’ve played it, because I really love sharing gaming stories with everyone when I get the chance!

Author’s Note: I know, it’s a change of pace.  Like I said, I’m not abandoning homebrewing.  I promise.  Also, this one is a little more mature oriented than other posts, touching upon rougher subjects.

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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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Horrors of Myth and Folktale – Classic Terrors for D&D 5E

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Tales of wretched beasts, disturbing men and unspeakable evils pierce our ears and chill our souls.  Countless villages, kingdoms, continents have stories of sinister monsters that seek to end us at any moment.  Their motivations might differ or be strangely similar.  Likely born of pure wickedness, these dark spirits haunt those who get too close to their very brand of malevolence.

Many of these monsters are often accompanied by tales of caution and woe.  Those who drift too far off a righteous path are often victims of these horrors.  Those who feel they’re too good for the morals of a realm or a certain way of life should always stay careful and alert, lest they fall prey to the evil that lurks nearby… waiting, stalking, preparing…

Author’s Note:  Here’s another list of monsters, taking inspiration form creatures around the world.  Also, here’s another case where I have 2 creepy horse-themed creatures… for some reason.  Maybe I just find horses to be creepy?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s pent up horror caused by seeing that disturbing Archie McPhee horse mask?  I don’t know.

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Vampiric Henchmen & Overlords – Forces of the Living Dead for D&D 5th Edition

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“One vampire, I can handle!  But, a whole army?  I didn’t sign up for th- AAAAHHHHH!”

The vampire, an immortal creature of darkness.  These creatures are soulless and damned, cursed by a thirst to leech off of human blood; they are parasites upon the living.  Those who had a fateful encounter with them were likely to either die or worse, become recruited to their dastardly cause.  For the longest time, it was assumed that those who succumbed to a vampire’s dark powers suffered one of two fates:  those who did not drink a vampire’s blood would become a ghoul with some slivers of their original self and those who drank the blood would become vampire spawn that were driven mad and violent by the corruptive power.  Such creatures range from mindless abominations to frenzied and insane mockeries of their former selves.  They are nothing like the true vampires that recreated them as they are now.

This leads to a strange new revelation, it’s more than possible to create more true vampires.  While usually not as powerful as a vampire who has fully mastered their abilities, they are an incredible force none the less.  Such creatures are more than capable of using their talents learned as a mortal with the unnatural abilities of the vampire.  Their progenitors are already a menace to those around them.  Combined with potent magics or martial prowess though and such an opponent becomes all the more deadly.

Author’s Note: Inspired by my “Vampyr” post from last year, I wanted to make a small handful of vampiric minions to throw at players that aren’t like the quasi-ghoulish spawn or the very powerful MM vampire.  Also, I decided to marathon through the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga after the Adult Swim announcement some time back, so I took some inspiration from the first and third arcs… and a little from the second.

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Bizarre Bazaar, Back from the Grave! – More Horror Items for D&D 5th Edition

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You see an eerily familiar sight; a sinister cottage building with a poorly written”antiques and oddities” sight nearby.  As you draw nearer, a dreadful sense of deja vu pours over you.  You’ve been here before.  Upon entering the door, all comes back to you as you see a hunched over sales person, obscured by a cloak.  The humanoid creature cracks a smile from underneath the cloth, as if it recognizes you.

Welcome to Rare and Magnificent Antiques and Wares!  I haven’t seen you in quite some time.  Hopefully you learned from last time you foolishly made a purchase without heeding warnings.  Or perhaps you’re a new customer, no… you’ve been here, I sense it!  Unlike other curio shops and antique specialists, I focus on the morbid and bizarre; artifacts found no where else in the world!  But remember this, all sales are final.  If you fear obtaining something, let me enlighten you on all there is to know.  Granted, you already knew the rules, didn’t you?

Sadly, we’ve sold the wears that you’ve seen last time.  But fear not, thanks to various benefactors as well as generous adventurers, I have replenished my stock with a satisfying assortment of new items to examine.  Also, do be careful when handling the items.  You don’t want to activate or awaken something by accident, do you?  Of course not!  And so, simply point to something and I’ll be right over to get it for you.

Author’s Note:  The Hunched Over Salesman is back with all sorts of creepy magic items to dive into!  I wanted to do a followup to my Gothic items from back in April, so here we go!

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More Werebeasts – Even more Savage Shapeshifters

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What was covered by our resident archivist was only a sampling of the many were-creatures that torment civilization.  Many more threaten to bring ruination to all those who threaten their claimed territory.  Woe to those who encounter such fearsome foes, even if they are completely prepared for what lies ahead.

The werebeast, lycanthrope or zoanthrope is a monstrosity born from something dark and primal within us.  It is awakened through dark pacts, wicked curses, magical plagues or even an act so vile that your own living realm changes you in response.  No matter the origin, such creatures remain a danger to all those around them, even the lycanthropes that aren’t inherent advocates of pure evil.  Raw and unrestrained emotion can lead to massive destruction if left unchecked and the were-beast is indeed freed and passionate anger incarnate.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  I didn’t finish everything I wanted to do, so I figured I’d expand upon it here.  With that, here’s a few more creatures at your disposal, including an update of my werebat from last year!  Plus, a whole bunch of inspirations have lead to some cool new creatures.

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Werebeasts – Savage Shapeshifters for D&D 5th Edition

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The gang’s all here!

“I saw them as they left the citadel, they were covered in blood and they cackled about some noble family they had slain.  I figured they were mad assassins…  that was, until they emerged in the full moon’s light.  In an instant, they contorted and morphed into all sorts of vermin!  They raised their heads in dark tribute to some sinister master before finishing their transfiguration into the accursed things.  I’ve heard tales of witches and warlocks making dark pacts to gain animalistic power… sometimes spreading the curse to the most innocent of souls.  Fortunately, they didn’t notice me observing from a ramshackle shack nearby or they simply didn’t care…”

– A farmer’s account of unspecified werebeasts emerging from a murder.

Long have we come to fear nature, it is pervasive and will reclaim all that we abandon.  It cares not for our petty morality.  It exists outside of our constantly changing and growing societies.  If we are lost within it, there is a good chance we’ll never be seen again.  But, while those fears are relevant, the fear of nature speaks to something within us… something primal.  The fear of the inner beast is exemplified no better than the shapeshifting horror, the lycanthrope.

While the name is a big misnomer, the lycanthrope is a sinister beast that masquerades as a normal person during the day.  As the night falls, they begin to hunt down the very people they interacted with before by shifting into one of many beasts.  No one is completely sure why they do this.  Perhaps dark spirits of nature beckon and control victims into attacking civilization.  Maybe they are corrupted worshipers of the old ways who desire to tear down boundaries between society and the wild.  Maybe they’re just shape changers who went completely mad.  No is sure for certain, for those who have survived an attack eventually become one of the monsters themselves.  One thing is certain is that entire cults have been built up around werebeasts, revering dark gods such as Malar the Beastlord; a deity originally hailing from Abeir-Toril’s universe.

Scholars have pondered what type of changing beasts exist in the world.  Beyond a list of common creatures, there are rarer and newer beings emerging from the untamed darkness.  These creatures are based on an assortment of other animal stock, sparsely mentioned or researched by archivists and monster hunters.  Recently, brave souls and madmen alike have unnerved new types of werebeasts based on various stocks.  Some of these animal stocks seem to affect different races disproportionately.  For example, wereweasels have a strange habit of once being halflings, while werebadgers had once been dwarves.

Author’s Note:  Halloween season has returned to Daemons & Deathrays a little early this year!  I figured I’d start by converting some of the stranger therianthropic nasties across other editions and various settings.  Not to mention, create some new NPCs based on existing types.  With the Wereraven officially released in Curse of Strahd, that’s one less creature I need to stat up myself.  On another note, Werewolf the Apocalypse may have had something to do with this.  Whether it’s nostalgia or my unashamed love of Classic World of Darkness, but I just can’t hate that game… even if it’s filled with stupid (and borderline tasteless) nonsense.  With that, have some more werebeasties!  Also, you can find my werebat here, from last year!!

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