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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June Blog Carnival – Bizarre Bazaar – Magitech!

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Why hello-li-lo-li-lo!  The name is Jermaine!  Funny name for a guy like me, I know, but I’m the one and only!  I know what you’re about to say… What am I?  Don’t worry, I am not offended, not in the very least!  I love to talk about myself!  I am of the Arcane and I am here to serve you.  These robes I wear, they are ceremonial, for the high holy act of commerce and trade; a sacred practice among my people.  My people have scoured wild space, the planes, the multiverse, you name it; we have visited it!  Many like me collect all sorts of oddities for my “bizarre bazaar”.

Unlike that barmy star berk, I assure you that my wares are much safer… and much fairer of a price.  My associates procure a wide variety of simply marvelous items from all over all known realities, the price you pay matches the story and the piece!  Now, what is my specialty?  Why, I collect and craft technological crafts empowered by The Art…  That’s “magic” for the clueless out there.  I’ve rambled far too long…  So my lovely observers, do you see anything you like?  Hmmm?  …  Oh, and one more thing!  No refunds, a merchant has to make a handful of jink somehow.  Ya hear me, baby?

Author’s Note: I’m back with another contribution to the RPG Blog Carnival!  This month’s theme is gonzo cross-genre gaming, hosted by Cross-Planes!  Find out more HERE.  Also, stay tuned for my theme post next month!

If there is one thing I love, it’s magitech!  Sure, most of my planar items count as this already, but I wanted to try something new.  In fact, I made a new shopkeeper narrator for the occasion as well!  (Don’t worry, Zam’dul isn’t going anywhere, Jermaine promises this!)  Here’s a sampling of technomagical devices for your games!  And yes, Scaramouche from the Samurai Jack miniseries inspired Jermaine the Arcane.  I also went a little crazy on these, so they might be a tad unstable.

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Monsters IN SPACE – Sci-Fi twists on Classic Monsters

Vampire by Saindoo

Even vampirism has evolved alongside growing technologies…

“Magick…” he grumbles in a hoarse whisper to himself, “the force we all thought would hamper progress.  And here we are, traveling the stars with it.”  Letting out a sigh, he pushes his hovering seat away from a messy desk.  “If we were truly destined to separate ourselves from magick, the horrible monsters would have been vanquished long ago… not terraforming entire planets.”  The man slightly grips his teeth as he rises from the floating chair, joints popping from ache and wear.  The spacefaring man gazes into a mirror before continuing to shuffle.  The marks of fatigue and age on his face contrast the shining gleam of his badges, reflecting light from the ‘glow panels’ dotting the ceilings and hallways throughout the vessel.  Over towards a huge glass pane, the elder military man observes systems of stars with planets seemingly nestled in perfect viewing spots by ancient giants or celestial creatures.  “And this ship, it has served more of a home for me than it deserves.  But, through the mad crusades and bloody combat, it has served me well.”  The tranquility of an empty space fades as ships pull into view, built with alien geometries and operating through impossible physics, they charge weaponry for an epic battle.  The man cracks a faint grin as similar weaponry opens fire on the enemy crafts.

The worlds of magic and monsters don’t need to end when civilizations have advanced themselves into new eras; feudal worlds give way to industrial, which give way to information, which give way to hypothetical new technologies that Earth can only speculate about.  Even a world of fantasy can and should advance and change with the flow of time.  All too often do these worlds stagnate in the endless mush of quasi-medieval high fantasy.  Now, this isn’t to say that such a thing can’t be good and doesn’t still have a place.  It’s just that for many fans of the genre, such things have grown stale and resistance to change.

In a fantasy future, adventurers will continue to carry on their business.  Perhaps new sanctions are in effect and new regulations are in place.  However, there are still dens filled with malicious monsters and strange sights to behold.  There are gnoll raiders who operate miniguns instead of wield war-axes, elementals from a plane composed of radiation, beholders who bolster their psychic power through cybernetic enhancements, orcish biker gangs terrorizing the streets through their “hover hogs” and much more.  Granted, most of these will not be appearing in the article below.  However, they are ideas on how someone can twist a classic monster for a more Modern/Sci-Fi inspired setting.

Author’s Note: I figured this is a great way to close out the theme, a look at some classic monsters transferred to a new genre.  And by this, I mean transferring classic D&D monsters into classic (as well as some less standard) science fiction.  Also, please don’t mind the cheesy space-opera-meets-D&D blurb from up above.  I’m not quite what I’d call a writer, but I figured it would be a fun change of pace.

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Planarsoldaten – A Dimensional Menace for D&D 5th Edition

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That’s right, Moon Nazis…

“Their initial strikes have left us vastly crippled.  We never saw them coming, legions of men fitted with advanced armor and weaponry; adorned with the symbols of a diabolic looking empire.  They eliminated our troops quickly and many of our civilians even quicker.  There is little hope for our world.” – A letter found in a burnt down house

The planes hold countless universes and endless possibilities.  Among them is a dystopian world where a brutal regime managed to take hold of the world.  However, one planet proved to be not enough for them.  Their empire was forged on persecution and bloodshed; hatred and genocide.  Their global domination campaign cost the lives of billions, causing irreparable damage upon the world as a result.  Unsatisfied with controlling the entire world for many years, they eventually turned their cleansing campaign towards the planes beyond.  Thanks to their high tech moonbase experiments, they were able to rip open a portal within the fabric of reality itself.  Achieving planar transport, waves of these augmented super-soldiers unleashed hell upon anything unlike them.

Countless realities did their best to hold back the waves of soldiers and generals, armed with strange technologies.  Some succeeded in pushing their evil back from hence it came.  Others were conquered and their resources exploited until only dirt and death remained.  Some realms were enslaved and only the worthy preserved… or recruited.  With an ever present grip, those who manage to slip through the cracks continue to hide in fear, well aware that their attempts at sabotage or spying aren’t enough.  Many of these realities require a hero now more than ever, a rebellion to turn the tides against a dystopian cancer that seeks to infect all walks of life.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wanted to revive my Wolfenstein themed post because the first version needed a touch up, plus I promised I’d come back to it.  Plus, I love the of Iron Sky…  Alien invasion plus an alternate-history nazi menace.  So, what if the horrors of Wolfenstein invaded the worlds of D&D?  Well, in the name of over-the-top pulp science fiction, I give you the chance to find out!  Also, as I had done with the previous post, I’d like to apologize for poorly translated German.

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Diseases and Plagues – Sinister Sickness for D&D 5th Edition

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Journal Entry 183

Illness.  A force capable of wiping out an entire city, if not civilization, if left unchecked.  My superiors theorize that it is the result of the machinations of the lower planes.  I know better though, I’m well aware that life so evil need not come from other planes, but from our prime material.  Sicknesses come from small germ-like creatures, accidentally bred through hosts and environments, but that’s as far as I can gather on my research.  By all means, I’m sure fiends can create their own diseases though… and I shudder at the thought.

That said, I will never rule out an element of the supernatural in plagues.  I’ve witnessed many things while acting as a physician: pustules emitting acidic vapor, coughing fits leading to burning alive, previously rotting and wasting victims returning as the undead, demonic incubation.  The list continues onward.  In fact, some of these cases I plan on covering more in depth, in addition to some new discoveries I’ve made.  I must go back into plagued lands to dive deeper.  However, one can’t venture into these dark depths without proper protection.  As unnerving as it may be to the public, the plague suit has proved quite effective.  Aromatic contents treated with protective wards is helpful enough, after all.  Now, I ready myself for travel throughout the planes, in hopes of understanding disease throughout all realities.

Author’s Note:  My avatar on many of my pages tends to be a plague doctor.  So, what could be more appropriate than analyzing diseases with such a character.  Also, I guess this marks a return to planar and sci-fi content, right?  Plus, one of the things that inspired this was Russet’s Mold and Vegepygmies from Expedition to Barrier Peaks… a module I had previously converted!

Also, be warned!  If you do not like Body Horror or other forms of Medical Horror, I do not recommend continuing.  While I don’t go into grotesque detail, I’ve still tried to capture both to the best of my ability.  And even then, many of the diseases here are quite deadly and have the capability to kill an entire party.  As such, use them sparingly.

Also, please pardon the lateness of this post.  I’ve been under immense stress for the past month and a half.  Things haven’t been going too well for me and I’m doing my best to manage.  That said, things are getting better and I’m trying to make things go back to normal.  As always, thanks for understanding.

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