Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dark Tide: Eras of Play

Back when it was a two-man project, we came up with the idea of doing a Dark Tide sourcebook that offered the core rules of the setting (rules for vampires and character creation), then followed up by having most of the book be a five-part section describing five different eras of the setting. All fluff would be given from the perspective of one of these eras, and for players each section would have setting-specific equipment notes plus a smattering of era-specific options- always an advanced class for the vampire-hunting types and a prestige class for vampires, plus a few feats/occupations/etc. Add in a set of campaign suggestions and an introductory adventure, and it sounded like a nice thing to have in a set of five. At this point the only part of this that's changed is that I'm considering changing the system to something else- Spycraft, perhaps. Anyway, the five era-based settings in the alternate Earth of Dark Tide are as follow:

#1: 1000 BCE. Brutal bronze age sword-and-sandal struggles.
#2: 1360 CE. Morbid medieval witch hunts in the aftermath of the Black Death.
#3: 1880. Transylvanian monster hunting throughout the world.
#4: 1980. 'Modern'-day bogeymen hunting and magical realism.
#5: 2070. Post-apocalyptic guerilla warfare.

Hit the link for more detail.

In Era #1, humanity is enslaved by a vampiric empire. This empire is led by noble houses which jockey for power; in this era True Vampires are considered to be a part of the house's noble bloodline and the ruling upper class, while revenants are tasked with managing and leading the various skilled human servants. Most humans are mere thralls, used for simple manual labor, feeding and breeding. For human players, games that start at first level will usually entail plots to gain their freedom unless they've been raised in the far-off wilderness away from the vampire's cities. High-level play will often have the players be a crucial part of a growing revolutionary movement aiming to free humanity from the vampire's rule. Vampire-centric games, meanwhile, would likely focus more on house intrigue, even as the cities begin to burn; most True Vampires scoff at the idea of a human being able to even harm them, and see any warnings by Revenant underlings as being simply signs of their cowardice and weakness. Major influences for this era include "300", "Gladiator", "Spartacus", "Troy", and an intriguing bronze-age fantasy novel whose name I've long since forgotten.

In Era #2, the nations of Europe (and beyond) have been devastated by the black death, and vampires that two decades ago were slowly being pushed to the brink of extinction now have an inherent advantage; in the face of death, the prospect of immortality becomes a far greater temptation. European culture has become extremely morbid, with unspeakable numbers dead and many more continually displaced even now as they flee new outbreaks. The organized effort to wipe out the undead is falling apart, and now individuals are forced to improvise lest the enemy begin to spread across the land unchecked. My only major influence for this era is history itself, though I'll likely work The Masque of the Red Death in at some point; it may well end up being a No Life King or having historic roots as an organization in ancient vampiric culture.

In Era #3, the civilized society of the Victorian Era sees supernatural monsters as the stuff of folklore. Organized vampire hunting is a shell of its former self, with its few experienced hunters doing all they can to contain a Revenant outbreak in rural southeastern europe, while True Vampires take advantage of their diverted attention in numerous ways. Nor is modern society nearly as removed from the horrors lurking the shadows as they think; various malevolent beings are infiltrating society with ease, some lurking in alleyways or stowing away on ship bound to new lands free of hunters while others hide in plain sight as normal members of society. The defense of mankind falls to intrepid individuals with the nerve, wits and strength to root out these evils and dispatch them. The main influence in this setting is classic victorian era gothic horror novels, especially Dracula.

In Era #4, the world bears a noticeable resemblance to the setting in Vampire: The Masquerade- at least, on the first impression. But even after setting aside the lack of non-vampiric supernaturals, there's still more to the situation than meets the eye. Your average revenant believes that he/she's all there is to vampirism; that the "secret society" breed of hunter is a crazed, uninformed fanatic who isn't nearly the threat they think they are. In reality, the organized vampire hunters are investing their energy into hunting down the True Vampires, who unlike their weaker kin are powerful enough to not give a damn about maintaining the status quo. Beyond the subverted V:TM theme, the biggest influences for this genre are likely Hellsing, Delta Green and the Magical Realism genre as a whole.

In Era #5, vampires are believed to be responsible for the permanent layer of clouds that developed 50 years ago, preventing direct sunlight from ever touching the earth's soil and dropping the globe's temperature enough to devastate the environment. The human society that existed before the dark times is now in ruins, thanks in no small part to the further manipulations of the undead. Now the battle is out in the open; will humanity defeat the vampires and rebuild their society, or will the vampire barons prove to be the foundation upon which a new vampiric empire is built? The closest thing I can name to this take on the post-apocalyptic genre is the visions in Terry Brooks' novel Running With The Demon.

What are your thoughts on all this? Does a particular era gain or lose your interest?

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