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Darkplane: Weird horror in 5th Edition
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.
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.
What's a Campaign Setting?
In tabletop roleplaying games, a group of players tell a collaborative story. Most players have a single character whose actions they control, and the Game Master (GM) plays the world around those characters (enemies, allies, environments, plotlines, etc.). He or she acts like a director, focusing the storytelling and keeping everything running smoothly while the group spins a compelling yarn. Everyone that plays acts as writer, performer, and audience member.
A campaign setting is a written guide to the world where the story takes place. It offers a unique fictional world for the storytellers to play in. That's what Darkplane is.
This is not your typical high fantasy world. Most magic is dangerous and rare, seen as a black art. Humans, who make up the vast majority of the world’s population, don’t look lightly on the uncanny or the supernatural. There are no elves, dwarves, no halflings, no orcs—at least not in their traditional forms. In short, this setting is meant to challenge many clichés of fantasy roleplaying. But above all, it’s meant to frighten and delight you.