Heroic Dark Fantasy Campaign

DarrenGMiller

First Post
I know it sounds a bit strange, but I have had this idea in mind for a while now and it is, as most of my ideas usually do, slowly coaslescing over the course of many months. As my current campaign is ending soon, I need to really pull this together for my next one (though I am taking a few weeks off from the DM's seat to get it ready). Here is my idea:

I want to do a Heroic Dark Fantasy campaign. I started out thinking that what I was looking for was Tim Burton inspired, but many of the movies I have in mind are not Burton films. What they seem to have in common was that Danny Elfman composed the music for most of the movies I have in mind.

I am planning on using Heroes of Horror and some other sources and have ordered Ken Hite's Nightmare of Mine (hopefully I actually get a copy of it, I have heard wonderful things about it) and already have GURPS Horror 3rd Edition.

The difference between what I want to do and a straight horror fantasy game is a sense of the surreal and that the heroes will be very heroic, but adventuring in a dark setting. There is darkness and corruption all around them and only they have the strength to make it right. I am using some published adventures (mostly Dungeon) that have the right feel to them and am designing the world and come up with some original adventure material as well.

What I would like to do is list my sources of inspiration and ask that if anyone is doing/has done anything like this, or just has any thoughts or ideas chime in with any house rules, advice, classes/PrC's to allow/disallow, rules to avoid, etc. Basically any advice you can give to help me capture the right feel I am looking for. The players are getting excited about this game and so am I, I am just starting to right my campaign handbook and would like to do this right, so that everyone enjoys it. Any assistance is greatly appreciated! That is one of the great things about ENWORLD! I can post my ideas and have instant brainstorming and feedback.

Here are my inspirational materials:

MOVIES
Beetlejuice
Batman (et al)
Nightbreed
Dick Tracy
Darkman
Edward Scissorhands
Sleepy Hollow
Dark City
Blade
Hellraiser (original)
Van Helsing
The Mummy (et al)


BOOKS
Lovecraft
Poe
Robert E. Howard
Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life and Gone South
Stephen King's It , 'Salem's Lot and Silver Bullet
Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde,etc,

I picture a world of corrupt politicians trading the welfare of their people for a life of ease and riches. The weather will feature lots of rain and fog (London, Seattle?). I want to create a sens of unease. The PC's are going to take the roles of heroic redeemers. They will win many smal victories, such as saving the village from the local werewolf bandits while discovering that the mayor was letting same bandits have thir way with the town in exchange for gold, etc. Also, lots of iconic monster, such as mummies, aberrations (Lords of Madness), vampires, the created, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc.

Thanks in advance for any and all ideas and suggestions. If nothing else, scrutiny will help me zero in on exactly where I am going with this campaign.

DM
 

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Remathilis

Legend
I worry about any DM who uses Heroes of Horror, the Book of Vile Darkness, and Libris Mortis as his PH, DMG, and MM...

Sounds good. You MIGHT want to look at some Ravenloft material (either 2e or the heavily discounted 3e stuff) for both some excellent source material and some nifty crunch (feats, prcs)

Consider some replacement classes: magic is creepier when your primary caster classes are the archivist and warlock...

I believe taint is in HoH, but check out Unearthed Arcana for taint and sanity...

Oh, you might be able to draw some inspiration from the famous Castlevania videogames as well.
 

The Cardinal

First Post
1. Have you thought about running a Warhammer Fantasy RP 2e game?


2. media:

MOVIES
The Last Valley
The Witchfinder General
Flesh & Blood
all old "Hammer" horror movies
Dagon
Brotherhood of Wolves
Freaks
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Golem (silent movie classics)
 



Wraith Form

Explorer
Midnight, the d20 RPG, would offer some great inspiration, especially based on the description you wrote of the type of setting you're looking for.

Fantasy Flight's Darkness and Dread would probably be useful.

HBO's Carnivale (especially the mystery that is Management - 1st season) would likely be useful.

Chris Carter shows are likely to be inspirational, particularly Millennium, but riffing off of X Files would be appropriate. Also, the "new" Night Stalker series is likely useful.

As mentioned, Angel would be good, especially seasons 1, 2 and 5.

Reading the Elric books by Michael Moorcock would possibly be helpful, at least from the bleak/dark fantasy standpoint.

As mentioned above, Ravenloft material would be useful, especially the DM's guide which gives some advice on running a "Gothic" horror game.

...And if you actually receive Hite's Nightmares of Mine, you're in for a treat--it's a great read!

If i can think of more I'll add to the list.
 
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Wraith Form

Explorer
Duh, how could I forget -- Dungeon mag's Age of Worms adventure path, while mostly "standard" fantasy, has a very dark root to it....it wouldn't take much to 'dark it up' quite a bit (i.e. throw in some evil, dangerous cultists and some squamous....things....of hideous, monsterous nature....)
 

Wraith Form

Explorer
petrified_towel said:
i have an idea for a dungeon....
its called the cyber dungeon and you can have cyber sex with orcs
Posts = 1

You actually created an account on these boards just to post THAT? (rolls eyes)
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Warlock isn't technically for d20, but it could be adapted to work with d20 fairly easily (in fact, if you want to do a conversion or something, I'd be happy to add it to the document and credit you for it). It draws heavily on George Lucas's Star Wars, Larry Niven's Warlock novels, H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, and the film Equilibrium. You can download it for free here:

http://jdrakeh.hostingisus.com/Settings/Window/Warlock/warlock.rar

Note that you'll need a copy of WinRAR (also a free download) or other file decompressing program that recognizes the RAR format in order to access the files. The RAR itself includes two PDF files that you will need Acrobat 7.0 or higher to read.
 
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BWP

Explorer
wolf70 said:
I want to do a Heroic Dark Fantasy campaign. ... The difference between what I want to do and a straight horror fantasy game is a sense of the surreal and that the heroes will be very heroic, but adventuring in a dark setting. There is darkness and corruption all around them and only they have the strength to make it right.

Sounds a lot like the Midnight setting to me.

wolf70 said:
They will win many smal victories, such as saving the village from the local werewolf bandits while discovering that the mayor was letting same bandits have thir way with the town in exchange for gold, etc.

Here's an example of how Midnight would treat the above: the mayor (and citizens) may fear and hate the PCs because their open use of weapons (illegal) and magic (extremely illegal) in defeating the monsters will likely bring the unwelcome attention of the legates (evil priests of the dark god Izrador) and their orc soldiers. The village may end up worse off than before the PCs arrived to "help" them.

wolf70 said:
Also, lots of iconic monster, such as mummies, aberrations (Lords of Madness), vampires, the created, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc.

No particular reason why you can't have these things in Midnight, but what you do have for certain is undead: lots and lots of undead. In particular, the fell, who are the risen corpses of those who have died. The world of Midnight is sealed off from all other planes and thus the souls of the dead have nowhere to go ... and often end up getting trapped in their own corpses. This horrific condition transforms them into undead who often don't even realise that they have died ... at least, not until the overwhelming hunger for living flesh sets in ....
 


jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Actually, come to think of it, The Hunt, Rise of Evil setting from Mind's Eye Games might be what you're looking for. Not only is it very surreal, but it is also easy to pick up on the cheap via eBay.
 

Gold Roger

First Post
Hm, sounds alot like diablo (the computer games) to me. Not in the one hero singlehandedly slays hell kind of way. But in Diablo you mostly have a dark and evil world/enviroment and few really significant forces of good.

I don't have such a big amount of gamebooks I could mention, let alone obscure ones. Lords of Madness is a excelent choice and Libris Mortis isn't to shabby as well, but I think you already use those.

Even if you don't want to switch systems, I'd still suggest you may take a look at some Warhammer stuff. Especially army books from the wargame can be filtered for some inspiration, not only warhammer but also from warhammer 40.000. The inspiration you could get from these books don't warrant a purchase, but if you have a friend that could lend you some I'd go for it.

Real world mythology and farie tales can be a inspiration to such a game as well. Pick such a story and look how it could be twisted to be more wicked and corrupt.

On the mechanical I'd say watch closely what you allow to your players. Your concept sounds like athmosphere is number one priority. So I'd watch out for every non-core mechanic that could hurt it, especailly if the fluff is to lighthearted in tone.

It also seems to me that the setting is rather black and white (there's evil and not evil) and very concentrated on the stuggle good vs evil, so I'd emphasize alignment oriented spells.

On the setting itself there is the question, why is this world such a wicked place. The easiest answer is that every real power comes from evil source. This would have to be ruled out here, since it wouldn't exactly allow the PC's to be good and powerfull and thus rule out heroism.
Other options are: Power can be archived with good, but it's much harder. Evil is the way of least resistance and most people tend to take the easy way or lack the ability to take the hard way (not exactly the same, a genious with great self control could still prefer the easy way).
The other option is that the world isn't fighting the war of good and evil. The war has ended and good didn't win or the war is about to end with good in the loosing position. This would put the PC's into a role as last chance, guerillias or prphecised savior that would bring the rebellion or return the golden age. Many great stories use the last, like matrix (only part one, part two didn't carry this in a good way and three never existed:p), star wars and Lord of the Rings.

the mayor (and citizens) may fear and hate the PCs because their open use of weapons (illegal) and magic (extremely illegal) in defeating the monsters will likely bring the unwelcome attention of the legates (evil priests of the dark god Izrador) and their orc soldiers. The village may end up worse off than before the PCs arrived to "help" them.

Sounds dark, but not exactly heroic. To me heroic means that you actually have a chance to change things, if even on an extremely small scale, not to have the PC's good deeds bend around to bite their ass.
 

Pielorinho

Iron Fist of Pelor
petrified_towel said:
i have an idea for a dungeon....
its called the cyber dungeon and you can have cyber sex with orcs
[Moderator's Notes]Petrified, welcome to the boards. Please review the board rules, specifically, the Eric's Grandma rule. Your post is inappropriate for these boards, and I'd appreciate your toning future posts down.

Daniel
[/moderator's notes]
 

rowport

First Post
Your ideas for game source books is pretty good already; if I may add a couple more:
* Darkness & Dread (Mike Mearls) by FFG is a *fantastic* book focused on this genre for d20. It has game mechanics ideas, but also advise on running dark fantasy.
* Call of Cthulu d20 (Monte Cook) by WOTC is very good. Purists may prefer the original version, but for ease of use in a D&D campaign, the d20 version is the way to go. Again, the game advise goes beyond just mechanics- but there are some cool beasties here.
* Necroscope is an older game based on the novel series of the same name; it could be useful if you can find it. I planned to convert it for a d20 Modern game but never did- the mechanics were not quickly converted. Still, there are nifty ideas there, or even just in reading the Brian Lumley novels themselves as original sources. Heck, there are a ton of books in the series. Lumley's Cthulu-esque books might be good, also. I guess I am saying: read some Brian Lumley books. Heh. :)
 

DarrenGMiller

First Post
Wraith Form said:
Midnight, the d20 RPG, would offer some great inspiration, especially based on the description you wrote of the type of setting you're looking for.

Fantasy Flight's Darkness and Dread would probably be useful.

HBO's Carnivale (especially the mystery that is Management - 1st season) would likely be useful.

Chris Carter shows are likely to be inspirational, particularly Millennium, but riffing off of X Files would be appropriate. Also, the "new" Night Stalker series is likely useful.

As mentioned, Angel would be good, especially seasons 1, 2 and 5.

Reading the Elric books by Michael Moorcock would possibly be helpful, at least from the bleak/dark fantasy standpoint.

As mentioned above, Ravenloft material would be useful, especially the DM's guide which gives some advice on running a "Gothic" horror game.

...And if you actually receive Hite's Nightmares of Mine, you're in for a treat--it's a great read!

If i can think of more I'll add to the list.

Thanks for the additional sources. I am a HUGE Michael Moorcock fan, but that is not really the feel I am looking for. Ditto for Midnight. I have run it and love it. Several people have said on this thread that what I described sounds like Midnight. I raised my eyebrows at that. I don't think what I am looking for sounds much like Midnight at all.

the mayor (and citizens) may fear and hate the PCs because their open use of weapons (illegal) and magic (extremely illegal) in defeating the monsters will likely bring the unwelcome attention of the legates (evil priests of the dark god Izrador) and their orc soldiers. The village may end up worse off than before the PCs arrived to "help" them.

Sounds dark, but not exactly heroic. To me heroic means that you actually have a chance to change things, if even on an extremely small scale, not to have the PC's good deeds bend around to bite their ass.

My take exactly. Midnight is more dark and hopeless than what I want to do, as is Call of Cthulhu (though CoC is closer in flavor with its outsider menace). It is not all that surreal and is more literary epic-tragic fantasy than the almost comic book-based cinematic wierd tale style I am looking for. It is J.R.R. Tolkien to my Robert E. Howard, Tim Burton and Batman. Sure, it is dark, but as Gold Roger said, not as heroic. I have run it and it is not the flavor I have in mind this time.

Actually, come to think of it, The Hunt, Rise of Evil setting from Mind's Eye Games might be what you're looking for. Not only is it very surreal, but it is also easy to pick up on the cheap via eBay.

I have looked at this a little. I will have to check it out a bit more. I will also have to look at Darkness and Dread and some of the 3E Ravenloft sourcebooks, though I am looking to create a world where the evil arises from human weakness more than the world itself. More on that in a moment...


Some more thoughts:

I am thinking of scrapping the concept of alignment as written. Most people who are not heroic (this is the one place I can really identify it with Midnight, a la the Heroic Paths) have some capacity for evil. I want to have some plots where the "monsters" are not the greater evil, but instead, mankind is. If you have seen Nightbreed or Edward Scissorhands, you know what I mean.

Like my example with the mayor and the werewolves earlier in the thread, the werewolves are just following their nature, the mayor is acting out of greed. Evil comes from failings of the human spirit. The seven deadly sins and other sources really bring out the evil in the world. There are good and evil deities, but the good deities feel somewhat abandoned due to the people turning towards dark deeds, so they are allowing the world to wander in darkness until it shows some sign of being redeemable. The evil gods in turn are growing complacent in what they think is an easy victory of darkness over light on the horizon.

In short, everyone has some evil in them. I don't want to plunge the PC's into a mystery that requires investigation (Maybe the werewolf bandits are skimming from the mayor's take, so he sends his personal guard out to kill some innocents and make it look like the werewolves did it... meanwhile, the werewolves have secretly hired the party in order to expose the mayor, while they move on to greener pastures) and then have them cast Detect Evil and kill everyone who lights up. I don't want to nerf Paladins though, so I will probably use the systems from Heroes of Horror to balance things.

Beyond changing the alignment rules (Has anybody done that successfully??? Tell me about it, please!!!), I have considered an Action Point system to make the game more cinematic/comic book/heroic. I have also thought about armor as DR, class defense bonus and Midnight Heroic Paths. What does everybody think about how these could affect the game?

My D&D sources right now are:
Core Rulebooks
Libris Mortis
BoED/BoVD
Heroes of Horror
Lords of Madness

Complete books
Heroes of Battle

Some Dungeon Adventures I plan on using:
Bogged Down - #91
Shut-In - #128
Deep Freeze - #83
Totentanz - #90
The Stink - #105
Palace of the Twisted King - #116
Rana Mor - #86
Bloodlines - #94
Tears for Twilight Hollow - #90
The Styes - #121
The Dying of the Light - #84
The Death of Lashimire - #116
Beyond the Light of Reason - #96
Seekers of the Silver Forge - #125

With these and my original material, this should take the campaign through to almost 20th level or so. Also, I have no problem making heavy modifications to published adventures.

Please keep the helpful suggestions, feedback, etc. coming! Has anybody tried anything like this before??? I have been DM'ing for a long time, but am always looking to expand my horizons and learn from others!

DM
 

Wraith Form

Explorer
wolf70 said:
The difference between what I want to do and a straight horror fantasy game is a sense of the surreal and that the heroes will be very heroic, but adventuring in a dark setting. There is darkness and corruption all around them and only they have the strength to make it right. I am using some published adventures (mostly Dungeon) that have the right feel to them and am designing the world and come up with some original adventure material as well.
* * * * * * *
I picture a world of corrupt politicians trading the welfare of their people for a life of ease and riches. The weather will feature lots of rain and fog (London, Seattle?). I want to create a sens of unease. The PC's are going to take the roles of heroic redeemers. They will win many smal victories, such as saving the village from the local werewolf bandits while discovering that the mayor was letting same bandits have thir way with the town in exchange for gold, etc. Also, lots of iconic monster, such as mummies, aberrations (Lords of Madness), vampires, the created, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc.

I think it's these two quotes from the original post that steers the rest of us toward suggesting Midnight...I mean, you basically described a more modern, Tolkien-lite version of how I see Midnight to play out. Midnight does not HAVE to be a bleak, "you can never win" setting. (In fact, I very very firmly believe that's not the intention behind it at all.)

Your description also sounds a LOT like Ravenloft, but maybe if RL was accelerated a few decades or even centuries into the future. Most of the sources you listed were "classic," such as the Universal Studios monsters (the big 4 - Lugosi as Drac, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and Chaney as the Wolfman). Ravenloft really doesn't stray too far from those origins. There *is* a 1890's version of Ravenloft, which I'm sure you know about--it's called Masque of the Red Death. This might be a very good fit for the setting you've detailed.

I hope these little suggestions help...?

I know it's often hard to put in words the mood, feel and themes we have in our heads (oh, believe me--I've agonized over various "concepts" for months at a time)...but, if you could clarify just a little more what it is about the sources you quoted--specifically the movies, especially the more modern ones--that you want to include in the setting it'd be helpful for us to make further suggestions.
 
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BWP

Explorer
wolf70 said:
I don't think what I am looking for sounds much like Midnight at all.

Well, in that case I'd recommend that you not say things like "the PCs are heroes striving against evil and corruption all around them".

wolf70 said:
Sure, it is dark, but as Gold Roger said, not as heroic.

I couldn't disagree more. The harder the struggle, the more heroic the PCs have to be. Having grateful locals shower accolades on the PCs doesn't make the situation "heroic". Don't confuse the reward with the deed ....

I can't work out what it is you're looking for, sorry. It sounds like you want to run a superheroes game of some sort (even if you don't want people flying around in funny costumes).
 

DarrenGMiller

First Post
Wraith Form said:
Your description also sounds a LOT like Ravenloft, but maybe if RL was accelerated a few decades or even centuries into the future. Most of the sources you listed were "classic," such as the Universal Studios monsters (the big 4 - Lugosi as Drac, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and Chaney as the Wolfman). Ravenloft really doesn't stray too far from those origins. There *is* a 1890's version of Ravenloft, which I'm sure you know about--it's called Masque of the Red Death. This might be a very good fit for the setting you've detailed.

I hope these little suggestions help...?

I know it's often hard to put in words the mood, feel and themes we have in our heads (oh, believe me--I've agonized over various "concepts" for months at a time)...but, if you could clarify just a little more what it is about the sources you quoted--specifically the movies, especially the more modern ones--that you want to include in the setting it'd be helpful for us to make further suggestions.

You're right. It is definitely hard to put these things into words. I am sort of bordering on Ravenloftian here (new word?). I just don't want a demi-plane with darklords and confining mist. The world is dark, but not unredeemable. There is no all-controlling evil god that has won, with the gods of light being shut out. It is a world in struggle, with the PC's as the light and most people as gray, but undead, outsiders, etc. being dark. I am looking at some of the big 4 creatures for inspiration, much like Stephen King did for "It."

As for it being a Superheroes game, I guess that is close, but more of the graphic novel variety. The setting is still going to be late medeival/early renaissance in tech level. I am looking to capture the Tim Burton surreality and "heroes are heroes, but is everything else as ti seems?" feel, with the goth pulp-horror wierd tales spirit. Some of the Conan stories are close to the mark (the creepy, almost fantasy horror ones).

Doing a thread like this helps me define the setting even more, as I get fedback and questions. Thanks for the assistance!

DM
 

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