I spoke at length with Michael Garcia of Occult Moon Games yesterday. Nope, it wasn't an interview (that's something I've yet to do on this blog. I'd have to "unlearn" some of my job training to make sure it was an interview and not an interrogation ;) Just two guys bouncing some thoughts off of each other.
One thing that did come up was the idea of running a "dark" or "chaos tinged" adventure(s). We weren't talking Lovecraft or Carcosa. Heck, I don't even think we were thinking Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (I'm a 1st edition fan, Mike is a 2nd edition fan, neither of us liked 3rd edition).
I guess the closest that I can think of that would fit my definition would be some of the stuff put out by James Raggi. More psychological than over the top, more hinted at than reveled. James does that well, except his default setting / background pretty much does away with the fantasy monsters we know. He throws the demihumans into LotFP's Weird Fantasy to satisfy the folks that would otherwise complain about their omission. It works because the slate he works off of is cleared of most fantasy tropes, all monsters are fairly unique, mysterious and dangerous.
So, can you write, let alone run, an effective classic fantasy adventure with a dark tint to it? Can you evoke some of those feelings of dread within the usual tropes of a D&D styled roleplaying system? Do you need to remove standard and classic D&D monsters from the palate?
Does this only work in a "low magic" campaign?
Can this style of adventure work in Greyhawk, The Forgotten Realms or Blackmarsh? A campaign that includes "mega-dungeons" and the like?
At which point do you break the spell? What is considered too much, or too dark, or not dark enough? Is less more?
These are questions I find bouncing around my head today. This is the challenge I've wandered blindly into. Once I start answering these questions I'll be that much closer to deciding if this is something I want to work into my campaign.