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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Rise of the Machines – Robotic Options for D&D 5th Edition

Solace Rising by BobGarvinArt

Technological advances at some rate, as long as there are enough minds to push it.  When thrust into a full blown revolution, new types of machines seemingly appear out of no where.  Old tasks die as new tasks replace them, old technologies become obsolete as new ones replace them.  Many praise the future of tomorrow where the fruits of innovation and creation are rewarded.  Others fear a darker future where the machine takes over us, one way or another.

Whether or not the future is a bright one, there is one inevitability; we will share space with thinking machines that are capable of thinking independently.  Some of these robots will only do certain tasks, while others are capable of more advanced tasks.  From security robots to physical trainers, the machine will find its place without a society of tomorrow.  Some become corrupted by a very human enjoyment of violence.  These become bounty hunters or psychopaths, driven mad by the contradictory moralities and ideals of sentience.  Those who don’t aspire to be paragons of righteousness or wretchedness are forced to deal with a world they don’t quite understand; they are inorganic beings in an organic world.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: ROBOTS!  I’ve been wanting to make something with that for a while.  I was hoping to make rules for using mechs, but I sadly never got around to that.  I have a feeling I might do a follow up, using my vehicle rules from a ways back.  Who knows?  Also, I wanted to make a Sci-Fi race as well, so I made my own take on the Android (as seen in Pathfinder.)  Now, this version will need some modification, as I don’t think it’s particularly interesting or balanced at the moment.

Also, want more robots?  I’ve made some via conversions as well as some homebrew of my own recently.

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Super-Science and Sorcery Roundup

RPG Blog Carnival Logo

For starters, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to contribute to this month’s theme.  While many themes have come and gone through carnival history, I’m not too sure many have really tackled this idea in depth.  Perhaps it’s due to the fact the genre hybrid of science-fantasy isn’t as popular as it once was.  Perhaps people just wanted to tackle something else that tickles their fancy.  Both are very fine reasons.

At first, I was hesitant to make the theme about science fantasy.  The reason was that it’s very much a niche flavor within a niche hobby.  I love it, but I figured not too many other people shared that same love.  None the less, plenty of fans came out of the wood work to support a pretty cool concept, if I do say so myself!  Mages and dragons meets techno-crafters and giant robots!  I mean, come on!  That’s pretty darn cool!  Also yes, RIFTS was one of my favorite settings way back when… how did you guess?

Anyway, I’m gonna stop prattling here and get to showcasing this month’s RPG Blog Carnival posts.  Here are the posts for the August 2016 theme, “Science Science and Sorcery!”

EDIT: Added missing links

 

 

6d6RPG: The Monster in the Machine – jfoster merges machinery with the strange and supernatural to create some fascinating and unsettling new monster ideas!

Anarcarnivàle: Any technology sufficiently advanced… – Clark proposes ideas on fusing magic and technology together with the help of historical scenarios.

Brynvalk: Cold Iron Corruptor – Faith from Brynvalk mashes classical fantasy creatures of the Fae with Sci-Fi elements such as cyborgs and mutants.

Crossplanes: F@NE For Savage RIFTS – Mark from Crossplanes creates a creature for the science-fantasy world of RIFTS, now compatible with Savage Worlds.

Daemons & Deathrays: Expedition to Barrier Peaks – Brian (Me) of Daemons & Deathrays has devoted the month to converting a classic module to D&D 5th Edition.  These posts consist of:

Forgotmydice: Astounding Tales of Science Fantasy – Grynning examines Clarke’s Third Law in its relation to the Sword and Planet genre, as well as figuring out how to run such games in D&D.

Forgotmydice: Warlock Patron of Interest – Griss makes a pact with a new warlock patron, The Machine.

Forgotmydice: ‘Tis New to Thee – Trevor transports people from a Modern world into the realm of Fantasy thanks to a new background!

Forgotmydice: From the Red Hills of Mars – Robert channels John Carter in the blog’s August 2016 finale by creating Green Martian stats.

Forgot my dice: Allons-y! – Trevor makes an intellectual and scientific sub class for the Ranger.

Mythus Mage: Are You Sure? – Alan dissects genre and treats magic as a science.

Notes of the Wandering Alchemist: Science-Fantasy Trinket Table – Based on the PHB, John has made a table of random trinkets you can incorporate into your games.

Rollcall: Reskinning to Maximize a System’s Range – Rollcall shows how simple it is to reflavor fantasy RPGs into science fiction.

Tales of a GM: Serpentfall in Heroquest – Phil takes from “The Day After Ragnarok” setting to build an epic interlude with a helping of science-fantasy!

Temple of Ravens: Super-Science and Sorcery – Anthony of Temple of Ravens ponders Sci-Fi series like Star Trek and how to run them within the realms of D&D and beyond.

 

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The Planes, The Planes! – Doc’s look at the Planescape Setting

Lady of Pain - Planescapes Character by Pseudooctopus

Please don’t anger the Lady of Pain!

So, the theme for this blog for the past couple of months has been planar creatures and dimensional weirdness.  Nothing embodies both better in my opinion within the realms of D&D than the Planescape Campaign Setting.  While I’ve enjoyed other AD&D settings like Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance; Planescape has remained special to me.  It’s a strange and cosmic fantasy where imagination is truly the limit!  You want to fight insane mechanical cubes with ray guns?  You can!  You wanna gamble with a Devil with an Angel by your side?  It’s possible!  You wanna get flayed by a giant lady for treating her like a God?  PLEASE DON’T DO THAT!  But I digress, Planescape is a high concept setting with endless amounts of play and content to explore.  For the reasons above and the many reasons below, I hope the full flavor of Planescape returns to D&D 5th Edition.  So far, it’s my favorite incarnation of the rule set (and I loooove AD&D 2e, albeit mostly for the vast library of settings.)  While they more or less have the Great Wheel, it feels much of the shadow of its former self like in the 3rd Edition of the game.  I want the vibrancy, the absurdity and the wonder of those wonderful weird planes.  Digressing from that, I’m here to address another question… How does one do a Planar game in this setting?  Why, I’m glad you asked!  Here’s a few humble suggestions from yours truly!

Now, I know what you’re thinking…  “Doc!  Didn’t you write about the planes on your other blog?”  Yes, I did.  However, I think now is a good time to revisit that post, especially now that I’ve been creating content revolving around planar travel and alternate dimensions.  Plus, cosmological models and jumping between worlds has been one of my favorite aspects of D&D as a whole!  With that, let’s chat about campaigns within the planes.

For starters, you might also ask me something; “Hey Doc!  Aren’t there more cosmological models than The Great Wheel a la AD&D?”  And you would be right!  Especially since 3rd edition, new models have popped up.  The Portals and Planes D20 Book (a rare title, if I may add) had heavily versatile options for truly forging your own planar realms.  Pathfinder modifies the Great Wheel and adds to it in simply awesome ways (with help of Todd Stewart himself!)  Eberron has an orrery based system where some planes overlap at the material plane at points in time.  The World Axis is a duality between the Gods above and the Primordials below.  That said, the Great Wheel remains my personal favorite of mine.  To be fair, it’s where I had the most adventures within the planes themselves.

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