Friday, March 27, 2015

Kickstarter - Darkplane (a 5e Setting)

I fully blame +Timothy Brannan for pointing me at this.

Darkplane is a "weird" horror setting for 5e. More importantly, the art is awesome. Damn, I'm really becoming an "art" guy, even if it's just as someone that appreciates awesome art.
Here are a few ways that the Darkplane setting changes the core assumptions of a campaign.
The World Appears Mundane. To the everyday inhabitants of Vinramar, magic is only a dark legend. Half-believed traditions of the supernatural prevail among commoners—whispers of spirits, strange magic, and unexplained terrors—but few people come in contact with such things. Darkplane campaigns focus on those special few.
Perilous Horrors Hide Under Every Stone. Beneath the facade of the everyday world lies a nightmare realm, the true reality that would drive common folk to madness. Magic is rare and dangerous. Vengeful abominations creep into the natural world from other dimensions, sowing chaos and fear. Frightful vestiges of pre-human civilizations lie hidden in the earth, and some of their immortal denizens live unseen among mortals. When such supernatural forces come in contact with average people, the scars they leave are deep and troubling.
God is Dead. Shortly following the creation, the supreme creator Sowm was killed by Her son Daemoth, plunging the Heavens into an endless war. The key players in this conflict are unfathomable gods who rarely visit the mortal realm, but their followers are all too eager to drag the world through milennia of bloodshed and carnage. These priests might be showmen, sages, or warmongering vipers, but if their faith is sufficient they can channel powerful wonders.
Industrial Revolution Has Created Wide Technology Gaps. Some cultures resort to ancient practices like hunting and gathering to survive, while others have developed specialized crafts like printing and glass blowing. In Trentsmund, steam power has irrevocably changed the kingdom’s infrastructure. Traffic between these societies is still limited enough to preserve the technological disparity.
The Darkplane Encompasses All. The four worlds are surrounded by an endless void beyond natural reality, called the Darkplane. The Darkplane is populated and ruled by mysterious aberrant powers so unnatural that their comprehension is almost beyond mortal minds. Daemoth’s slow conquest of the Darkplane has driven these alien horrors into the four worlds, where their presence infects and twists natural creatures into unspeakable aberrations.
Now, what entails "weird" horror led me to follow a link to darkplane.com, where I found the following:
The Darkplane universe is a campaign setting for 5th edition that blends Gothic horror and weird tales with a rich, culturally diverse history. Its mortal world, Vinramar, can be a perilous place, whether you’re leading witch-hunts in Trentsmund’s colonial provinces, searching forgotten ruins for the secrets of the cosmos, or taking desperate flight from the cannibal-infested wastelands that once were the kingdom of Welluxia. 
Darkplane is weird fiction. That means its stories rely on an overarching, seductive sense of dread and mystery. It’s about cults, hauntings, twisted monsters, and breaking away from moral simplicity. While there are elements of high fantasy, it won’t take you long to see that this is not a setting modeled on Medieval Europe. It pulls from the mythologies and folklore of many different cultures in an attempt to support a wide array of horror stories.
I don't like "Darkplane is weird fiction." Roleplaying might be a form of story telling, but fiction is not an RPG. Writing an RPG adventure or setting is not writing fiction. Yeah, this irks me a bit. Can you tell?

But then this part of the Kickstarter page kinda explains it:
I'm Graham Ward, a writer, actor, and filmmaker living in Denver with my awesome wife Bethany. Darkplane is my baby. I began early work on it in the days of 2nd edition D&D, when story and imagination were at the center of the game. I've been writing adventures, running campaigns, and expanding the world of Vinramar ever since. It's been a huge source of fun for my friends and me.

I'm the creator and lead writer on this project, but I'm helped by a great team of collaborators who have contributed concepts and writing over the more recent years of the setting's development: Kristy Eagar, Mike Eagar, Adam Rodger, Derrik Young, and Kent Lloyd. 
I started playing D&D at age 10, and it's stuck with me for most of my life since. I've run campaigns all over the country in various cities I've lived, and even ran a short campaign in London while there for a study abroad. 
Right now I work full-time as a professional actor at several theaters in Colorado. It's a bizarre career, but I love it. More recently I've been getting traction as a writer and filmmaker. Check out my recent no-budget short film...
There's more, but I stopped reading. Graham is very creative. We get it.

I'm intrigued by the setting, but that's because I took the extra step to actually find additional info. The Kickstarter is funded and jumping through stretch goals, so Graham has done something right.

Then there is this piece from the "Risks and challenges":
A note about copyright: Wizards of the Coast owns Dungeons & Dragons and its associated intellectual property. This project will not be published or distributed in any way that violates copyright laws. It's a personal project that will be delivered as a gift to those who help fund its creation. No profit is expected, and no infringement intended. If no other avenue is provided, in a worst-case scenario, it will be printed without system-specific rules and backers will be provided with digital packets of the "crunch" for printing). 
"Dungeons & Dragons" and "3E" are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, LLC. Graham Ward and Darkplane: A Campaign Setting are not affiliated with Wizards of the Coast LLC. We make no claim to, or challenge to, such trademarks.
I don't think that not expecting profit makes a difference if WotC thinks its copyright is being violated. I'm not saying WotC is going to go in that direction, but I don't think it would be a defense if they were.

I'm conflicted on this. Weird fiction isn't about story telling or story creating or looking back and saying "holy shit, that makes an excellent tale", it's a story that is written and told. Maybe "weird fiction" is just a poorly chosen phrase.

Do I back or do I not back.

I'm on the fence on this one. Thankfully I have over 2 weeks to decide


  1. Warhammer for D&D. I get it. Don't need it, but I get it.

    Oh and d20 Call of Cthulhu is compatible with 5th dition rules, more or less :-)

  2. "Darkplane is weird fiction" is a turn of phrase but I don't get that the author intends for it to be as confusing/annoying as it was for you. I get that there's an intense desire to not imply RPGs are cut of the same cloth as plain old fiction....but suggesting that "an RPG is not fiction" sounds just as weird to me as "Darkplane is weird fiction." From the dictionary:

    First definition: literature in the form of prose, especially short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.

    Second Definition: invention or fabrication as opposed to fact.

    RPGs may not be the first, but they sure as hell are the second.

    1. I take your point, and I think you're technically correct, but the truth is nobody refers to a football game or even a game of Monopoly as "fiction". It's a game - a different category of experience. At heart I think an RPG should be a lot more like a board game or a sporting event and a lot less like what is generally considered a "story" or "fiction". The closer it gets to the latter, the less interested I am in it. To be brutally frank, I can download countless free e-books if I want to experience the output of frustrated novelists.

  3. Not my cup of tea, sounds rather one-note and adolescent, but I wish the creator luck in achieving his goal.

    No interest in a 5th edition of AD&D. 1st was enough.

  4. The comparison to a modern(ish) horror game like Call of Cthulhu is a bit of a straw man. A more apt question might be "How is this different from Crypts & Things, LotFP, Carcosa, Realms of Crawling Chaos, AS&SH, or Primeval Thule?" If anything, there's a glut of "dark" and "Lovecraftian" fantasy settings and rules at the moment. I wish the author well, but anybody who thinks "D&D + Cthulhu = I must be a genius!" is seriously deluding themselves at this point.

    1. Anyone who thinks anything D&D-derived is genius...

  5. Hi guys, just thought I'd add two more cents on the topic, hopefully not spoiling the discussion by jumping in. When I say "weird fiction" I'm referring specifically to the genre. I get that it's awkward and misleading to refer to D&D as fiction (I'm with you all there), but I do think it's fair to say that a thematic game can have a genre.


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