The streets are seemingly cast in a dark and gloomy shade among the lit up lamps. Flittering insects cast sinister shadows on the cobblestones below. However, the chill down your back is far from a winter wind. You feel it, don’t you? A cross between a clacking of razor blades upon your coat mixed with the sharp feeling of exposure to ice. It’s right behind you. As to what it is? You dare not find out, but your doom is likely spelled out for you, regardless. Before you can react, the words, “I have use for you” buzz in your mind before all turns to black.
Author’s Note: Weird Western stuff is fun, but it’s only a single flavor of the Gothic. I’ve always been one for horror in an urban environment, such as jolly old London. Plus, I wanted to switch gears to something a little more traditional D&D. Also, I was really eager to bust out some references to Castlevania! (Yes, most of them are Symphony of the Night.)
“Lemme tell you ’bout this really freaky gent, just lingered outside of town for a bit. He got this big ol’ rictus grin, like someone who died clenching their teeth. He asked me about my evening. ‘Course, it was lovely. One of the men of the inn helped me relax real well upstairs a bit, hehehe. Anyway, the mad smilin’ man vanished after I told him off. Damn ghosts. I need some rest, so I don’t cleave off someone’s face…” – Booker L. Wyatt, Human Barber, owner of Wispy Cliffs Barbershop
Dark spirits gather in these parts. Maybe they love the sorrow and struggle that comes with developing frontiers; the lawlessness, the adverse environment, the lonesome people. All sorts of negative traits and qualities seem to lure all sorts of vicious monsters to prey on the miserable locals. Many of the monsters themselves were once the very same miserable locals, in some cases brought back from the grave to terrorize anyone who dares to live life well. Some are just manifestations of pure evil, formed upon this world to destroy.
Author’s Note: You can’t have most weird west tales without a degree of horror. So, let’s dive into some particularly nasty creatures. Some of them are homages and conversions of beloved and infamous monsters from various games; such as Darkwatch: Curse of the West and Deadlands: The Weird West. You could say, I like both… a lot. Also, good lord, are the Hangin’ Judges SOOOOOO 1990’s! I love them, but they are a trope of their era.
I love gothic fiction, gaslamp fantasy and weird westerns, as has been known through various posts throughout the blog. Plus, pages like Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque remain both awesome to visit and truly inspiring!
So, for the next month or so at least, I’m going to try to keep a wide variety of gaslamp, pulpy and gothic flair. This can be anything from more expansion of Tomb of Annihilation or Curse of Strahd to more content inspired by Eberron to more Victorian and Wild West inspired fantasy and horror content. And while I’m at it? Good old Ravenloft, as in the Demiplane of Dread (instead of the module)! I’ve been pondering making a small adventure in one of the domains… possibly Dementlieu, Richemulot, Nosos or Lamordia. I might put it up on DM’s Guild while I’m at it! Of course, this is all pondering based on whether or not I’ll get around to it.
IMAGE SOURCE: Vampire Victorian Age: London by Night – White Wolf Games
Even during your travels through the rather alien hub known as Sigil, your eyes latch onto a few familiar sights; goods and magicks from your prime material, creatures and cultures you have encountered in your travels and one very familiar and eager merchant that seems to follow you wherever you go. Zam’dul too has seemed to appear in this fantastical city of doors.
“Hoohoohoo, traveler! Zam’dul knows you to be an excellent customer! Fear not, there is no stalking happening here, but simply travel to the places that adventurers go to! As always, wares find their way to Zam’dul and prices remain fair. Plus, a rather intriguing guild known as “The Fated” seem to have Zam’Dul’s interests in mind, should ruffians appear. In the meantime, please sit upon a meditative cushion. It is fluffed for long term discussions over philosophies and trading.”
Author’s Note: Magic items are always fun to make. In fact, they might be the most fun thing for me to make. So simple, yet there’s potential to create truly fantastical things! Read onward and continue your adventure.
A familiar face comes into view as patrons briefly part into a narrow opening, it’s a cloaked humanoid with a strange helmet! The creature gets up from a meditative stance, acknowledging your presence. His relaxed and idle stance changes into a beckoning yet inviting gesture.
“Ah, Zam’Dul has not forgotten you, traveler! Many of my old wares are gone… The rest? Well, a bored mind tries to see what can be done with spare parts. You’ll see some older oddities as well as some new creations. Please, relax and observe what the shop has to offer! Never be afraid to ask questions, Zam’Dul knows all!”
He lifts a curtain beyond his little stand to reveal a massive archive of the wonderful and weird, seemingly infinite space is filled with encased treasures and incredible artifacts. The helmed monk shuffles to a counter, seemingly observing you wherever you go.
Author’s Note: These were always fun to do! Also, I’ve been messing around with some of my magic items. Some needed a fair bit of overhaul, while others weren’t developed enough. Plus, I have a few ideas I’ve been kicking around in general. So, let’s get shopping! (Or something!) Keep an eye out for the Tomb of Annihilation nods, for any gamers eager to run the major adventure book for Fall 2017. Also, this post was made in support of the November 2017 RPG Carnival with the theme “The Past, Revisited“. Check out the post and its contributors!
Hey, ghosts and ghoulies! Doc is back at it again! This time around, I have an assortment of werebeasts at your disposal. The document includes new content including: a werebeast never posted on the blog, new NPCs inspired by each animal stock, cleaned up versions of two previously existing sub-classes and more!
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.
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.)
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.
While many have heard the story of the troubled monster hunter, there are other heroes that struggle against deadly foes and unspeakable evils as well. These unsung champions of the light do all they can to keep all hope from being extinguished in a dark and desolate world. Not all heroes are born from myth and legend. Many are souls who have faced great adversity, pushing them into impossible odds. Those souls have either become broken or are seeking ways to prevent them from collapsing under pressure. Whatever the cause, they have witnessed terrible things that pose a grave threat to them, as well as others. Perhaps the conflict isn’t so much external as very much internal. These troubled heroes seek retribution, redemption, truth and understanding.
In endless realms where mad lords and mysterious mists survey and control all, hope is all one has. Without it, one simply cannot live. And those who cannot hope anymore will likely be consumed. Many have tried, but many have fallen to the darkness as well. How will you fare differently?
Author’s Note: In celebration of Curse of Strahd, I wanted to make some backgrounds with a distinctly Gothic theme to them. Sampling from history and literature, here’s 3 new ones! Of course, you could easily reflavor my Researcher and Lost One backgrounds from the Fey post into something more gothic with ease. Also, I truly love the Haunted One background quite a bit! It’s why I referenced it in my first sentence, hehe.