View Full Version : Gothic Horror 4e Campaign Setting

Somber Requiem
2009-01-10, 01:13 PM
Here's an idea that's been nudging around in the back of my skull for a while now. I'm going to flesh it out here, if you don't mind. Please, feel free to PEACH.

The begining

Within the eternal, infinite, astral void the corpses of failed and slain gods drift... withered. Fallen. Bitter. Only the greatest of minds may have noted their movements were not without purpose or pattern, but none were watching. No one cared for the remains of these divine powers. Yet slowly, subtly, they drew closer and closer together by an unknown source. A collision! Another. And another. By the time the watchers are aware it is too late. Divine remain joins divine remain, pulverizing one atop another as the last flickering motes of their essenses are fused together with the flesh of their being. Lacunae was born.

Protectors and explorers journey to this growing mass, seeking answers to the unknown. They find nothing but broken masses and an inexcapable pull sucking the life from their bodies and souls. Protectors, explorers, and the unwary all add to the blighted ground as it adds ever more mass to itself. It grows, it's invisible hands drawing ever more astral material inwards. Threatening to tear at the divine domains of the gods themselves, the powers of the astral rally to deal with the threat. Magic and power assult the dark planet, only to be drunk in. Finally, only with the assistance of the fiends of Baator, is a remedy found. The dark planet is shifted from the astral to the prime material. There, removed from astral energies, it waited.

Eons passed. The strange anomely was forgotten by most, and sought by those few who coveted its strange powers. One of these searchers, a god named Amon, brought his celestial temple to the sphere. His legions, sorcerers, servents, and slaves sought to tame Lacunae and extract the divine power it had collected. With the radiance of his celestial temple, light shown down on a shattered landscape. Faces of contential size, frozen in expressions of pain and malice, gaped up at the new sun.

Amon's followers brought life to Lacunae. They built their grand, golden temples and marble halls and tiled roads. And for a time, it was good. The light of Amon and the works of his followers allowed an uncontested paradise to grow. Yet in the light of their God, the shadows grew stronger and darker. Servants disappeared when not within their God's kindly gaze. Divine agents dispatched to investigate did not return. The marble halls cracked and blackened. The golden temples turned dull and silent. Amon's followers cried for their diety to save them. Amon was unkind, and so turned off his radiance for one minute. Their cries and prayers silenced. The silence continued, and Amon felt fear. His radiance returned to shine upon an empty empire. Not a single servant remained in his empire.

Amon sought to leave, yet now that dreaded pull asserted itself. It drew his temple ever closer to its surface despite Amon's divine will. The struggle shook its crystaline walls and soaring pillars as Amon struggled to save the great structure. It was not to be. The Celestial temple of Amon split around him. Shattered reminents were thrown into the sky while the rest crashed to Lacunae. Amon himself simply sought to excape the planet's hungry pull. Flee! Flee! Every instance that passed Amon grew weaker and weaker. His golden light turned a sullen red. And then he came to rest, growing huge and bloated and helpless to move. And Lacuane circled his remains, like an ever watchful vulture waiting for Amon's final expiration.

Lacuane's next visitors were a triumverate. Perixes, the sea god, Nemune, goddess of beasts, and Belphior, god of the woods, came to Lacunae. They came carefully, not in pride, but warily searching for the source of dread power. Beneath the red sky, Perixse summoned water from the elemental planes and stirred them to form clouds and storm upon the land. Nemune filled the seas with watchers to search for threats. Belphior worked to plant his undersea gardens. And for a time, it was good. As the land was wetted, the hideous faces were covered beneath grass and tree. Beasts were brought to live upon the surface of the world. And for a time it was good. And the triumverate relaxed their guard.

Perixes felt the stillness in the deeps of his watery kingdom. In the crevices where no light could reach, a presence lingered. Curious, the old fear forgotten, he investigated. In the deeps of his ocean, his element, he realized he was not the master here. The old fear, with fresh terror, returned as he felt that insatiable downwards force. Panic, Perixes flailed in desperation to escape and never return. He could not. The force of his flight stirred the waters in an eternal whirlpool that would echo his final scream for eons to come as he was drawn into the deep places of the world.

Nemune heard her brother's screams, but could not act. The beasts of her creation were slipping from her control. They were becoming hungrier and more aggressive. And the goddess of the hunt became the goddess of the hunted. Her own beasts, empowered beyond her intent, hunted her across the land, sky, and sea. Each time she paused they would tear out a piece of her flesh. Each time she fought, they would swarm atop her. Finally, bleeding and blind, she sought refuge in a cave. Deep underground, the silence was broken only by her sobs. And then there was only silence.

Belphior remained, alone and afraid. He could not run. He could not fight. He hid. Spreading his divine essense through-out his most sacred grove, he thought to escape destruction. The great trees grew larger still, the better to survive any calamity. And for a time, it seemed to work. For a time. But as roots grew deep, a change came over his sacred trees. Blight spread along their trunks, and leaves blackened and fell. Strange funguses sprouted to feed on the oozing sap. Belphior waited, resigned for oblivion, yet it did not come. And he knew dispair as he felt himself eternally rotting and growing... rotting... and growing...

And for eons more, Lacunae sat beneath red sky. The beasts were left to find their own natural equilibrium. The seas stilled. The woods fell silent. Only a few monuments remained to marr the sense of normalacy: a screaming maelstrom, a shattered celestial temple, caverns dripping with blood, and an ever groaning rotted infestation.

Then came visitors unknown to Lacunae; a small and simple and fragile set of beings: humans. These humans, refugees from a world torn by war, found the planet to be a blessing and a reprieve. For generation after generation they built civilization on the edge of the sea. And for a time, it was good. Gods forgotten, magic unknown, these humans grew larger and more numerous and began to explore the surface of the world. And the darkness stirred within their great city. Shadows began to hunger. Silence visited one family after the next. The old supersititions and fears began to grow as people turned on people. Fear of the Dark. The Stillness. It.

But not everyone was afraid. One such woman was named Mystrielle, who believed there were great powers trapped within the earth. Many who delved into the earth never returned, but Mystrielle did not fear for herself but for her family above. Deeper and deeper she travelled, using luminescent fungi to light her way until she came upon the Goddess. Trapped within the crushing press of stone was a sliver of divine. And Mystrielle reached forward, and touched it. The divine essence flooded inside her. She did not become divine, but instead spoke a single word. From her hand appeared a glowing light to guide her to the surface.

The response was immediate. That night a great stillness filled the air. None slept, for dread was thick and the people huddled together as they stared at the glowing fragments of the celestial sky and watch them wink out one after another. Then a scream. Then another. Then hundreds cried out as the sea slowly rose, and the land was pulled into the water. Ships, filled beyond capacity, were drug slowly beneath the smooth and undisturbed water. When the sun rose and spread its ruby light over where the city stood there was only a perfectly round bay, without a body to be found.

Those that had been outside the city would scatter, found new civilizations and cultures. Mystrielle, aided with her new power, survived to reach the surface. In time she bore children, all daughters, who inhereted her strange abilities. And the Darkness seemed to retreat, content to let the races of humanity spread across the surface of the world. Yet it's influence was not absent. In one land, a church arose. One that preached the Nameless Dark could be placated if followers were obediant and loyal. Worshipers of other gods were hunted down, burned as heretics. People, afraid of the unknown, stood aside and let the Order of the Nameless Dark to rule. Spellcasters, all blood decendants of Mystrielle, were labelled as witches and heretics as well. And so Lacunae continued to turn, silently in its revolutions around a trapped god, shrouded and waiting.

So what I really want to know for the moment is is the background scary? Too much? Too little?

Somber Requiem
2009-01-10, 02:18 PM
The premises of the game setting

1. There are two enemies: the ones you can see and fight and the unknown. You will never know if what you face is a simple monster or something more.

2. Magic users are rare. Both divine and arcane spellcasters face formidible persecution for their powers. If a mob doesn't get them, the Order of the Nameless Dark will. Divine casters are heretics who endanger the lives of others by angering the Nameless Dark.

3. Moral Ambiguity. There is no DnD alignment. Instead you select a virtue and a vice. A virtue grants you bonuses in certain circumstances. For example, the virtue of Love gives you a +1 to attacks, damage rolls, and saves when the object of your love is threatened. The Vice greed requires you to recieve the most valuble magic item offered in an adventure, or the greatest share of wealth. Failure to do so will gain you a -1 to attacks and damage until you obtain wealth greater than the amount you were denied.

4. 99% of the population is human. Non-humans exist, but they are extremely rare and persecuted.

5. Few outsiders. Lacuane eats demons, devils, celestials, and fae. All planar travel to Lacunae is one way.

6. No gods. Divine spellcasters recieve spells from the dead conciousness of the gods beneath their feet or from their own focus and faith in greater good.

7. No graditude. Adventurers might save a town from a threat, but shouldn't expect a parade afterwards. The adventurer Mystrielle destroyed the city of Phane when she unleashed magic. Adventurers might endanger people by stirring up the Nameless Dark.

8. Adventurers are the only thing that stands a chance of saving people from the Nameless Dark. There are no Eliminsters waiting in the wings to swoop in and save people. If the heroes don't step up, no one will.

2009-01-10, 03:18 PM
This sounds, in some ways, similar to the Silent Nights campaign setting I was working on last year. In order to keep the fear real for the players, I'd suggest you do not reveal anything that isn't mandatory or asked for. The unknown foe is the most fearsome.

2009-01-10, 03:26 PM
I concur.

Being too explicit is the surest way to kill any sense of awe, wonder or horror that an audience might have for your setting. It's hard to fear the unknown when you've given your players a perfect rationalization of what's going on in the form of a Creation Myth. A big no-no.

For example, if you want a monster to harass the players, it's best if the players often never understand its true motives, its full capabilities or sometimes how it even looks. Maybe they never even catch a solid glimpse of this thing.

Somber Requiem
2009-01-12, 06:31 PM
Races of Lacunae



"Heave to and take up sail! We'll cut through the night and have this cargo home by morn! We'll not let a spot of rain and storm block our way!"

Racial Traits
Average height: 5'0- 5'8"
Average weight: 110-150 lbs

Ability scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 Charisma
Size: Medium
Speed: 6 Squares
Vision: Dark Vision
Language: Phanen, choice of one other

Skill Bonus: +2 to bluff, +2 to streetwise
Quick thinking: +2 competence bonus to initiative
Wealthy: Increase starting gold by 50%

Phanen are humans descended from the survivors of the fall of Phane, the first free city. Though near a million perished, the Phanen had expanded beyond their home to settle all along the eastern coast. Phanen continued to strive against adversity, be it from within or without. Despite numerous conflicts the Phanen remain one of the most wide spred bloodlines of man on Lacuane.

Physical Qualities
Phanen have the distinction of being one of the smallest human bloodlines. Their skin varies from light tan in the northern provinces to a dark umber in the southern islands. Though delicate in build, they make up for it in appealing features and inspiring bearing. Phanen features often sport 'fae' characteristics, such as slightly pointed ears or almond shaped eyes. Such traits are rarely a complement. Eye colors vary from green and hazel to brown, and hair color is usually dark blond to black. Phanen dress in elaborate and expensive outfits, with surplus of buttons, silks, and satins. When abroad, Phanen favor rugged and durable clothing, but it is always adorned with expensive decoration.

Playing a Phanen
Phanens are often described as a society of schemers, thieves, and scoundrels. They are equally described as a driven, dedicated, and devoted people. Both stereotypes are true. Phanen are driven to success at any cost, and once obtained, display that success by whatever means they may. Almost no scheme is too farfetched not to be at least considered. Every social act is loaded with nuance, innuendo, and scenting for advantage.

Phanen have an intense love-hate relationship with magic. On one hand magic is largely blamed for the destruction of the city of Phane. On the other, there is no doubt that its power is seductive and Phanen drama is rife with stories of arcane tempation almost always ending tragically. Real magic users are openly persecuted, and even suspiction of witch craft or fae craft can have a mob at the door. Fortunately, Phanen also have an intense dislike for people who 'cry wolf.'

Phanen communities are neat and orderly affairs. Homes are frequently made with elaborate and expensive accents to denote how prosperous the inhabitants within are. Poverty is generally regarded with scorn or pity; if they were clever enough they wouldn't be poor. Many Phanen become adventurers simply for the opportunity to display their wealth. While many see Phanen as pushy and aggressive, the Phanen are simply siezing every advantage that comes along.

Male names: Branen, Derrick, Fenn, Mallorre, Sennith, Trentan
Female names: Asurelle, Cassil, Dromellynn, Kaithe, Puri, Sarielle.
Surnames: Aurrem, Cinders, Flagpath, Jumper, Moore, Quenillin, Sack

Phanen Adventurers
Captain Cassil Moore has been commanding the trade ship Boundless for five years now since the last captain was lost on a foggy night. Despite the ship's age, the warlord keeps tight reign over her men no matter how bleak the situation may get. Many times its been her sheer determination alone that has gotten the Boundless away from whatever horrors the sea may throw at her and back to port safely. Despite her success, Cassil has been pondering taking a brake from sailing to start a family but each time she does there's another cargo that needs carrying and she's off again.

Derrick Sack has always been one score away from the big time. Just one plan... just one scheme... but each time the young rogue always comes up a little bit short of the big time. On the streets of Eastgate he's run with a regular band but constant set backs and cuts have caused the young scoundrel to contemplate a life of adventuring.

2009-01-12, 07:10 PM
Giving a Racial Bonus to starting Wealth in 4e doesn't really make any sense. Since all PCs have a standardized amount of wealth to start out that does not lend itself to being x1.5.
The Initiative Bonus for the race should be a racial bonus to initiative. There are no longer Competence bonuses.
Instead of the Wealth bonus, maybe consider giving them a racial power? Something appropriately pirate-y.

I like the idea of the setting though. Just don't tell your players too much, and you'll be running 4e Call of Cthulu in no time :smallbiggrin:.

2009-01-12, 09:39 PM
So, why the hook into the standard cosmology, if you aren't going to be using it? (No access to the astral sea, etc).

Ie -- if you are going to be making a Gothic horror, instead of having a "world you cannot get out of", what if this world is all that there is? The same things have happened -- the darkness from the middle of the world has eaten the gods that once existed or driven them mad, etc.