NeverMage
 member, 5 posts
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 18:45
IC / Feedback: A little John Carpenter in D&D 5
Hey, all.

I've been bouncing an idea around in my head for a little bit now, and I think I've got enough rough thoughts down that I can throw it out and see how it floats. I'm interested to see if the idea is appealing, and any feedback people have for running "darker fantasy" / "horror fantasy" using the 5E toolkit.

The Short Version:

Take The Thing and blend it with The Romance of the Three Kingdoms in a High Fantasy setting. Games would primarily focus on a variety of home-built races, rather than traditional Tolkien fantasy.

The Long Version:

Bhasmar is a world that is going to die. What began as a border dispute between three neighboring kingdoms has started to become a world-wide threat, thanks to one of the generals opening a powerful artifact known as the Scarlet Urn. This released a plague / race of creatures known as "the Red Souls," who began infecting his troops, but soon started spreading into other troops during battle. Now, the battles are spilling further and further out of the initial contested zones, forcing soldiers and civilians alike to split their attention between the escalating war, and the ever growing threat that any of their neighbors may be a host to a Red Soul.

------------------------

I'm still working on world-building at the moment, but I'm curious to see what people think, and if anybody has any tips that could come in handy to capture that tension and distrust that is so iconic in this genre.

This message was last edited by the user at 18:56, Thu 01 Feb.

engine
 member, 531 posts
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 18:56
IC / Feedback: A little John Carter in D&D 5
John "Carpenter"? I opened this thinking thJohn "Carpenter"? I opened this thinking that it might be about rollicking adventures on Mars, but apparently not.

Creative distrust is a hard thing to bring about. In my experience, players work to find a way to lock everything down and wait. MacReady didn't necessarily need to engage in his special blood test that made for such a great scene. There were lots of more boring but no less effective approaches he could have used. The trick is then how to get the players to come up with those creative approaches.

You could try to come up with ways why boring solutions don't work, but it's your one brain against their several, so I don't like your odds. But if the players are bought into the genre and they know that simple solutions aren't the way to go and also don't want simple solutions to be the way to go, then they'll work with you instead of against you to find a way to keep the distrust at a good level.
NeverMage
 member, 6 posts
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 18:57
IC / Feedback: A little John Carter in D&D 5
In reply to engine (msg # 2):

Yes, John Carpenter. Sorry- brain was moving in a couple of different directions. Updated the title for the correction.

You have a good point about players looking for the simplest solution. I will have to keep that in mind designing the scenarios.

This message was last edited by the user at 18:59, Thu 01 Feb.

OutlawJT
 member, 255 posts
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 19:01
IC / Feedback: A little John Carter in D&D 5
You might need to be more specific when you say non-vancian races. Typically non-vancian is a term used to describe a type (or rather the absence of a specific type) of spellcasting.

It's a very interesting premise and I see a lot of potential with it. You need to get the mechanics of something like the Red Souls just right to make it work, though. There needs to be a real risk to individual players of being replaced but it also shouldn't be too likely. It seems like a tricky sort of thing to homebrew in a balanced way based on the points of reference you're using for inspiration.

For help with setting tone and whatnot, you might want to have a look at the Curse of Strahd book (plus any other 5e Ravenloft material they've put out, even in unearthed arcana). Also have a look at some of the stuff Michael Mercer puts out. His work sometimes taps a more dark fantasy or horror fantasy feel. Case in point his blood hunter class.

One last note, this does not work as a high level campaign because of true sight. Once players start getting access to that it drains all the day to day tension from the premise except for the absolute worst 'Oh Crap!' cinematic moments like when the entire war council you sit down to meet with and have peace talks or talk military strategy all reveal to be Red Souls at once and attack the party.
NeverMage
 member, 7 posts
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 19:06
IC / Feedback: A little John Carter in D&D 5
In reply to OutlawJT (msg # 4):

Point noted about the races. Updated it.

For levels, I was thinking to keep it simple- rather than running one long campaign, I think it would be more interesting to run a couple of smaller stories that stay firmly in the level 3-7 range. Something that could incorporate soldiers and civilians alike, so that we get a variety of viewpoints.
engine
 member, 532 posts
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 20:01
Re: IC / Feedback: A little John Carter in D&D 5
OutlawJT:
It's a very interesting premise and I see a lot of potential with it. You need to get the mechanics of something like the Red Souls just right to make it work, though. There needs to be a real risk to individual players of being replaced but it also shouldn't be too likely. It seems like a tricky sort of thing to homebrew in a balanced way based on the points of reference you're using for inspiration.

No need to balance it. If a PC gets replaced, they get replaced - and keep playing as that character. The other PCs already shouldn't trust them, so they continue on that way. All the players would know about the change, so there would be rich opportunities for dramatic irony. There might come a time in the game in which it makes sense for a character to trust a PC that the player knows has been replaced (but the character can't be sure about). That would be a fun situation for all concerned, I imagine.

OutlawJT:
One last note, this does not work as a high level campaign because of true sight. Once players start getting access to that it drains all the day to day tension from the premise except for the absolute worst 'Oh Crap!' cinematic moments like when the entire war council you sit down to meet with and have peace talks or talk military strategy all reveal to be Red Souls at once and attack the party.

If the infection is aware of things like this, one of its first acts would be to disable all kinds of true sight. The thing in "Who Goes There?" did that, by killing the animals that could be used to perform tests. The thing in "The Thing" destroyed the blood supply.

One could work with the players to determine how to do this thoroughly. If they're on board with the "no easy solutions" concept, they'll want to help. It would be interesting to imagine what would have to be done to destroy, disable, subborn or discredit every easy means of detecting the infection.