FrankenFourth: Eldritch World

I wrote a post over three years ago about doing Star Wars as Lovecraftian Horror. Also a while back but more recently I did another flavor-centric post about a for some reason still unfinished sun priest class for a Dungeon World setting that I was going to call Eldritch World.

I haven't stopped thinking about the general setting concept (or the class for that matter), but it's grown and changed since those two posts. Here's where I'm at, now.

The nutshelled backstory is that a sun deity named Ayash creates a world and all life on it, and after a while a bunch of Great Old Ones show up and start ruining their shit. Ayash and her creations (both mortals and angels) fight back, but in the end Ayash is forced to incinerate the world and start over.

(I'm thinking that the default "tech-level" of the campaign during what I guess you'd call the Second Age is about bronze age, with a heavy Mesopotamian style.)

The bad news is that not even Ayash's power was sufficient to completely destroy the Great Old Ones, but the attempt and act of recreating life exhausted her such that she is forced to retreat to her heavenly realm on the sun in order to rest.

So the the scorched not-quite-corpse husks of the Great Old Ones now orbit the world, like a bunch of twisted moons. When night falls and they're shielded from the sun's light they begin to slowly regenerate and stir, causing chunks of them to break off and fall upon the world: sometimes they transform into or give birth to Lovecraftian horrors, sometimes they warp the region around them, often they do both.

The good news is once they are re-exposed to sunlight the Great Old One husks once again burn and shrivel up, and whatever fell upon the world is long as it's touched by sunlight.

Monsters born from these husk fragments instinctively flee from it, seeking safe places to hide until night falls and they can venture forth to terrorize, mutate, and/or devour whatever they find. But, sometimes fragments fall in forests or punch through the ground and land into caverns, where they are safely concealed during the day. This allows them to grow and fester, and sometimes insane cultists find the husks and monsters and provide them with shelter.

Since the progeny of the Great Old Ones cannot bear the sun's light, dungeon locales wouldn't need to be changed much: dense forests, deep caverns, ruined/sunken cities, hidden grottos and temples, sewer systems or ancient parts of a city that have been built over, anywhere that's well hidden. But, many would feature weird shit like distorted time or space, and otherwise mutated terrain and inhabitants.

Other, more exotic locales would include dreamscapes or venturing through gates that lead to other dimensions or worlds (perhaps other worlds that the Great Old Ones destroyed or conquered). Also, since Ayash is sleeping and there aren't many angels left, adventurers might go to various heavenly kingdoms on the sun if for no other reason than to raid them for artifacts to use against the Great Old Ones.

Adventurers could be hired to patrol the streets of cities at night or help keep watch in smaller villages, hunt down cult cells and husk fragments that fall out of the sky, destroy portals and star arrays, and deal with dangerous monsters plaguing settlements. They'd also explore dungeons in search of treasure, especially ruined cities and temples from before the Purification.

For races, obviously human, probably dwarves and kobolds (they hid underground before the Purification). Might rename ishim for a celestial race, and would wanna look up Mesopotamian demons to see how well cambions would work. Not sure about elves (could have hidden in a fae realm).

As for classes:

  • Fighters, paladins, and barbarians are basically unchanged, and would be great to have on hand for hacking apart the bandits, barbarian hordes, eldritch horrors, and cultists that you'll invariably run into.
  • Bards, druids, rogues, and rangers are also basically going to be the same (wonder how to handle bards knowing things mortals aren't meant to know, though).
  • Clerics of Ayesh are a big deal, and the most common, but clerics can also worship powerful angels or spirits (though shamans might be more appropriate if you want to play someone that deals with nature spirits).
  • Instead of physically draining you, wizard magic would drive the user insane and/or cause mutations if used too frequently. On the upside, wizards would know how to communicate with, imprison, banish, and even command the Lovecraftian horrors lurking in the shadows.
  • Psionic powers (battlemind, nomad, psion, etc) would be ideal: not only would they not drive you insane or mutate you, but mental shielding could also prevent you from being driven insane!
  • Warlocks with an outer god pact would be regarded with suspicion for obvious reasons, though they might prove invaluable so long as you are confronting an opposing Great Old One. Of course, the party could be part of a cult, in which case The Cultist would also be a good fit (if we do this in Dungeon World, that is).

Definitely going to want some sort of random mutation tables. Also some sort of mechanic for insanity and various fear effects. I know 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons had Heroes of Horror, and 4th Edition had a fear/madness card deck from I think Gloomwrought that gave you bonuses if you overcame your fear. I also have a bunch of boxes of 1st and 2nd Edition stuff I can rummage through in case I wanna go old school.

At any rate, going to see about starting up a campaign using this setting as an alternative when someone can't make it to our usual Monday/Thursday games (or maybe just switch over if they get bored), though I'll probably start running Melissa through it solo before any of that happens since we need to do more playtesting anyway.

If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

Hot on the heels of The Blackguard, The Troll is out! The Rogue is up next: we should have an alpha draft ready soon.

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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