Friday, 6 November 2015

On the Night-Wind: a ghoulish game

For those who care about such things, this post will contain massive spoilers for a story written a century ago.

Listening back to the archives of HP Podcraft recently, I was struck by a certain turn of phrase in the story that inspired me. Let me cite.

Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile. I know that light is not for me, save that of the moon over the rock tombs of Neb, nor any gaiety save the unnamed feasts of Nitokris beneath the Great Pyramid.

And somehow this filled me with the desire to do a game where you play mocking and friendly ghouls. There's a sense of hidden richness in that brief couple of sentences. Plus, funereal is cool set-dressing, as Vampire knew full well.

The Premise

So, drawing loosely on the collected works of Lovecraft, the premise is that you are all ghouls: dog-faced, rubbery, meeping, corpse-munching, tunnel-dwelling ghouls. By night, you ride the night-wind seeking not-very fresh bodies, adrenaline rushes, and the cheap thrill of scaring jocks at popular makeout spots. By day, you retreat through myriad secret ways to a moonlight realm that lies somewhere over there, wherein lie the catacombs of Nephren-Ka and the tombs of Neb and many other cities of the dead, which though once part of the waking world have drifted by degrees into the nightlands. Here you rollick and play and feast and rest awaiting the next excursion.

Being mocking and friendly ghouls, of course, you are no monsters. You eat dead people, but they don't mind. In fact, you take a benevolent interest in the affairs of mortals - you were one once, after all. And so, in your midnight revels, you keep a friendly eye out for your human neighbours, and take steps to guard your shared world against some of the more strange and terrible things that the universe holds. There are many secrets known to the ghouls, things buried with the dead or secrets whispered by the ancient things of the world.

Astute readers may notice that this bears a certain resemblance to Necromancers, and this is entirely true. For some reason I quite like the idea of combining friendly, benevolent adventurers with a gothic horror aesthetic. This is all compatible stuff really, settingwise, although arguably some necromancer concepts (like summoning armies of the dead) might not work in a fairly-strictly Lovecraftian 'verse.

I'm still trying to work out what system I'd like to run this in. There's a certain argument for FATE, except that I don't really have any confidence in my ability to run a successful FATE game and my players didn't seem particularly sold on the system. BRP is too swingy for lighthearted adventure. Either way, I'd better hold off any further work until I find out whether my players are actually interested.

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