Is Pathfinder Too Dark?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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Whimsy Chris wrote:


Legacy of the Fire sounds different and interesting.

Gnoll slavers, The Carrion King, an ancient temple devoted to Rovagug and shapeshifting crimelord cult leaders... sounds different, interesting, and just plain nasty! I for one can't wait to see more of the Classic Monsters Revisited version of gnolls in that AP.

Whimsy Chris wrote:
Also one that's focused on the fey court, in all its wicked beauty and disturbing mystery, would be one I'd be sold on right away.

Now that's evil! Have you seen Pan's Labyrinth? Creepy...


Krome wrote:

Actually I don't think they did misjudge their audience at all.

I think they are targeting the more mature, adult gamers that have spent 20 years playing in lolipop lands, and looking for something a bit seedier to whet their appetites on. I for one, am extremely grateful to ba alble to play a premade module designed for adults instead of targeting early teenagers. I would like to think I have matured and changed in the last... well never mind how many years (I need a calculator to figure it out!)

Stopped reading this thread at Krome's post, sorry if I missed something relevant.

As a 20+ year gamer myself, I agree completely. In fact, the dark element of Pathfinder is what makes it the only line of modules I've ever used satisfactorily. I'm not asking for more darkness, I think the balance is just right.

This game is largely about stabbing things. Taking a setting like that too lightly belies a lack of appreciation for the facts about stabbing things.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Samuel yes Ravenloft was not great even for dark theme horror but at the time it was by far the best setting for it and so it was a good starting point to work from for us.

No one said it has to be dark all the time. Just saying we like as a group the over all theme and mood to be dark by default.

Liberty's Edge

So far my group and I have found the ratio of dark-to-normal adventure themes to be perfect. In fact, I'm afraid I'm guilty of turning the dark volume up to 11 or 12 even when Paizo sets it at 10.

In other words, when it's a normal adventure I leave well enough alone, and when it's dark I make sure it's really dark. That fits my DMing style.

-DM Jeff

EDIT: I find it easy enough to do heroic happy, my dark themes need some assistance I'm all too glad to get!


Set wrote:
hogarth wrote:

Just to clarify, I was talking about PCs. I can think of two things:

[list]
  • The PC is a nasty person who likes living in a nasty city. In that case, switching to "we've got to save the world!" can be a bit jarring.
  • Pull a 'Wolfram & Hart' from the Angel TV series;

    "You helped me save the world? Why? I thought you *wanted* to bring about the apocalypse."

    "We want to bring around *our* apocalypse. The one were *we* end up in charge. Nobody else gets to destroy the world until we are done with it."

    The vast majority of 'bad-guys' don't want to see the world destroyed (and, indeed, are quite fond of it's pleasures, and wish to be around for quite a long time to enjoy them!), and quite a few of those who *do* want to see the world destroyed, want it to be *their* god(dess) or Thing That Whistles in the Silence Between the Stars to be the one that heralds in the apocalypse and ends up in charge of whatever hellish reality remains.

    I doubt even that mad Rovagug would cheer if some upstart demon-lords ended up doing what he failed to do...

    This is why our mostly evil criminal part works in korvosa. Cause at the end of the day, parasites like us, need people to feed off, and if every one dies, we don't get no revenue. Plus the good guys are paying well.

    Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

    Dark_Mistress wrote:

    Samuel yes Ravenloft was not great even for dark theme horror but at the time it was by far the best setting for it and so it was a good starting point to work from for us.

    No one said it has to be dark all the time. Just saying we like as a group the over all theme and mood to be dark by default.

    Wandering off topic, this was why Nova Vassa was one of my favourite Domains. You could run a low level 'zorro' style campaign there, and reveal the underlaying horrors slowly.

    Heck, if your players were only familiar with Barovia as 'Ravenloft' you could run the game and they'd never quite know they were in the Demiplane.


    delabarre wrote:

    The haunted house took its toll even before the ugly TPK with Xanesha at the end.

    I would think a big problem is the TPK, which is depressing even in lollipop land. If you slog through horror, the payoff is triumphing over evil, the sight of the dawn's first light on the horizon. If you take that away from your players, of course they're going to be depressed.

    As for my own buying preferences, let's just say that Hook Mountain, and specifically Mammy Graul, is what got me to start buying Paizo products.

    As for Falcon's Hollow, there is nothing in any of the modules or setting guides that states that your players can't take down the Lumber Consortium through diplomacy, bribes, terrorism, setting up a different business, assassination, politics or what have you. My player's starting to do just that, having done a campaign against Piskie killing and starting a union organizing drive. With Falcon's Hollow, when you return from the dungeon the adventure's just beginning. That's what makes settings like that fun. If the DM refuses to let you change the world, however, of course it is going to be depressing. Don't let that happen. Heck use the Carnival adventure as a catalyst to change, if that's your thing.

    I agree that the Conquest of the Bloodsworn Vale and the Entombed with the Pharaohs are light, as is the Last Baron adventure, frankly.

    As for the start of AP 3, I was glad, because those urban encounters were all plug and play with ease. More of those for me!

    The only thing I would want in terms of an adventure path would be an exploration, where the PCs are part of finding a new continent. There's a crying shortage of exploration focused modules out there, which is a shame, since politics, economics, ruin delving, and wilderness adventures are all a natural in that kind of venue. If Paizo came out with that, I give them out as gifts to my friends.

    Paizo goblins are adorable little losers (like Pugs) ... right up until they outnumber you and you see how sharp their teeth are.

    As for LotR, remember that when Sam and Frodo get back home, they find that it's turning into a police state.

    And Samnell, why do you write things that I can't unimagine? My player's going to hate me when she discovers the zombie pleasure room.

    Good point, Ilessa, on the value of leaving Korvosa for a bit to give players a chance to regroup. If only they'd eliminated Skeletons of Scarwall and had them run the resistance for the fifth module.


    Blayde MacRonan wrote:
    I have to agree with Kyrinn on this.

    Yay! High praise coming from your ambitious Ro7P/ToH hybrid, beyond your being a Midnight AND IK fan. Thanks.

    Liberty's Edge

    Dark_Mistress wrote:
    No one said it has to be dark all the time. Just saying we like as a group the over all theme and mood to be dark by default.

    Right. But I think that is what some perceive of Golarion, that it is dark all the time. And that is where the problem arises.

    Not that I have cancelled my subscription yet, it is still where the issue arises.


    Black Dow wrote:
    Whimsy Chris wrote:
    Also one that's focused on the fey court, in all its wicked beauty and disturbing mystery, would be one I'd be sold on right away.
    Now that's evil! Have you seen Pan's Labyrinth? Creepy...

    Great movie! See now, mix that style with a little LOTR elven courts as points of light, and you have a great ambience for an AP. It could still be dark, but more of a psychological darkness than a gore factor.


    Whimsy Chris wrote:
    Black Dow wrote:
    Whimsy Chris wrote:
    Also one that's focused on the fey court, in all its wicked beauty and disturbing mystery, would be one I'd be sold on right away.
    Now that's evil! Have you seen Pan's Labyrinth? Creepy...
    Great movie! See now, mix that style with a little LOTR elven courts as points of light, and you have a great ambience for an AP. It could still be dark, but more of a psychological darkness than a gore factor.

    Nah go for unseelie/seelie conflict within noble courts, with switching personality types, so that those who are your friends at the beginning of the adventure, may well be your enemys at the end.


    toyrobots wrote:

    I'm not asking for more darkness, I think the balance is just right.

    Pathfinder has had a winning formula so far, Im perfectly happy with their content. I hope they dont change a thing.


    Please keep it dark.

    I never liked the whole shiney happy killers thing and this is what adventurers are, killers. Even the heroes are killers, for a good reason perhaps, but still they are always dealing death. Killing is dark business even when it must be done.

    The evil must be dark as a juxtaposition against the heroism of the good guys. All too often in fantasy evil is portrayed as fit for an immature audience unable to handle how cruel and malevolent evil can actually be. Dark enemies and a world where darkness is prevalent gives the heroes reason to act and can cause the players to become personally invested in overcoming such darkness.

    My personal campaigns tend toward darkness on the part of the villains because I don't see a point in villains being kinda-evil. Kinda-evil villians don't cause the players to vicerally loathe them. Getting the players (not just the PCs) emotionally involved really makes a difference in connecting them to the campaign.


    To add an observation about LoTR.

    LoTR IME is darker than most D&D/fantasy RPG campaigns I have seen. The danger is ever-present for the heroes in LoTR while in D&D death is sometimes nothing more than a speedbump. In LoTR heroes couldn't easily escape from foes using magic, they couldn't detect evil, they weren't fantasy superheroes (Legolas in the movies notwithstanding), annd they weren't dripping with magical trinkets.

    In other words many D&D campaigns are veritable Disneylands compared to LoTR in regards to actual darkness. Many campaigns could learn a lot from LoTR as well as te writing of Howard and Moorcock to make things grittier. The more difficualt the journey, the most satisfying the victory.


    Wyrmshadows wrote:

    To add an observation about LoTR.

    LoTR IME is darker than most D&D/fantasy RPG campaigns I have seen. The danger is ever-present for the heroes in LoTR while in D&D death is sometimes nothing more than a speedbump. In LoTR heroes couldn't easily escape from foes using magic, they couldn't detect evil, they weren't fantasy superheroes (Legolas in the movies notwithstanding), annd they weren't dripping with magical trinkets.

    In other words many D&D campaigns are veritable Disneylands compared to LoTR in regards to actual darkness. Many campaigns could learn a lot from LoTR as well as te writing of Howard and Moorcock to make things grittier. The more difficualt the journey, the most satisfying the victory.

    I respectfully disagree. The examples you give - little magic, inability to detect evil, and no fantasy superheroes - doesn't make LOTR more dark, but more based in reality. What sets Pathfinder apart is its gore factor: eaten faces, missing jaws, dead soldier's blood used for red paint, rape, children eaten by sharks, and so on. A lot of these factors would be out of place in LOTR (I haven't read anything but the trilogy so I can't speak for other books), or at least not given gory detail. However, Tolkien does go at length to describe beautiful landscapes, poetry, heroic characters, and so on. Sure, many dark things happen, but it's the way they are told and what is given attention that ultimately leaves the impression.

    Grand Lodge

    Whimsy Chris wrote:
    Black Dow wrote:
    Whimsy Chris wrote:
    Also one that's focused on the fey court, in all its wicked beauty and disturbing mystery, would be one I'd be sold on right away.
    Now that's evil! Have you seen Pan's Labyrinth? Creepy...
    Great movie! See now, mix that style with a little LOTR elven courts as points of light, and you have a great ambience for an AP. It could still be dark, but more of a psychological darkness than a gore factor.

    I am not much into the gore factor. I like psycholgical terrors.

    Anyone remember the game Kult from the early 90s? That was a great setting... modern fantastic horror. I'd love to find that game again.


    For me, PF dark is fine. I would only get somehow disenchanted if it became a Warhammer 2nd ed dark thing, where your PCs end up being insane, doomed or fascist inquisitors; or a WH40k type, where you are the fascist inquisitor's crony from starters. Fortunately I do not see it happening.

    The modules so far, the ones considered "dark", have just gone down to show what other adventures since early in the days of the game assume but do not go into: ogres sacking a fortress or village are commonplace; what did they do with the conquered humans, just keep them in the pantry till the good guys show up?
    That said, I do not find the "darkness count that high" for RotRL:

    1) PF1 has scary goblins and a psycho girl; plus some extraplanar horror, but it is pretty much a clean dungeon bash.
    2) PF2 is a horror focused module till the house. The city encounters are dangerous, but nothing too dark (sect of murderers and monster overlord).
    3) PF3 is nice and dark, but pretty appropriate given the topic (fort overrun by ogres). Fighting Black Magga, the battle at the dam and the finale actually are quite heroic and grit-free.
    4) PF4 is pretty much a big "fight the giants" thing. Not too much scariness there.
    5) PF5 has some insanity in the dungeons. Something else would have been weird though, with ultra-powerful guys locked up for millennia.
    6) PF6 has one damn scary encounter, then turns into a fascinating exploration: "Lost world" alienness is the prevalent factor in it.

    CotCT has a definite "creepy" tone in the first 3 modules, something to be expected for a "city adventure". If characters assume the role of heroes, the bad guys in a home city tend to be creeps who dwell in the shadows and predators of the night, not clearly-arrayed hordes of humanoids. That said, it is more an "underworld" tone than a gorish one. The plague thing is brilliant, nevertheless, as it provides a damn good innovative approach to the city setting.

    Dark Archive

    Krome wrote:


    Anyone remember the game Kult from the early 90s? That was a great setting... modern fantastic horror. I'd love to find that game again.

    Yes Kult was fiendishly evil. Still held onto my copy and Legions of Darkness. It was a great game and I still draw upon it for many of my homebrews. (Demiurge and all that) One of the best horror games made (well really only 2nd to CoC),


    I've been roleplaying since I was 17, and generic themes bore me. For my own personal taste, if the AP's were bland, I might as well just pick out random stats from the MM and roll dice, which would make playing a video game, reading a book, or crafting a painting more interesting to me.
    From my experiences of all of the things I have read, the AP's aren't dark to me, let alone "too" dark. The AP's aren't boiled cabbage either, but at least they hold my interest and compete for attention enough to get me and my wife to subscribe.
    As far as Pett and Logue, I doubt they held a staff of fireballs to anyone's head to force dark matter on anyone. The staff at Paizo had the vision for these chapters in the AP and modules, and they merely chose suitable authors to bring their vision to fruition. These chapters then do go through editing before being shipped to print. Nothing comes as a surprise or shock except maybe the uncommon typo that sneaks past them.
    As it is, when I come across anything, I've always modified material to suit my style of DM'ing. The AP's grip me as much as reading a book, but I have the power to change it as I see fit, and mostly, so far, it's primarily been just to incorporate psionics.
    As a player in CotCT, so far, my experience has been that it's tame as hell, and I'm concerned that Paizo might have been intimidated into printing generic material from the "torture porn" thread.
    Since I'm running 2D, the first chapter looks promising, like a step in the right direction. It's complex and not some lukewarm deal. I'm hoping the third AP meets with my high expectations and keeps the players guessing.

    Dark Archive

    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
    Samuel Weiss wrote:
    Dark_Mistress wrote:
    No one said it has to be dark all the time. Just saying we like as a group the over all theme and mood to be dark by default.

    Right. But I think that is what some perceive of Golarion, that it is dark all the time. And that is where the problem arises.

    Not that I have cancelled my subscription yet, it is still where the issue arises.

    Yeah I know, I just don't think Pathfinder has come close to being dark all the time yet.

    Shadow Lodge

    I am a fan of the Dark and Gritty, the darker the better I would say. However, I enjoy the luxury of not playing with anyone under the age of 18, so I don't have to worry about content getting too intense or graphic. That being said, if Paizo was intent on bringing their PG-13 down to PG I would still buy their products, assuming they retained their overall quality. If they were inclined to offer some ultimate darkness for an adult crowd ie. intense stories, gory details, and evil from the darkest corners; I'd be inclined to support that, as well. Just throwing my 2c into the fray.

    cheers

    Grand Archive

    As a DM that runs games in the Midnight Campaign Setting, I enjoy a dark gritty feel to my games, my players appreciate it as well. Still, this dosn't change that sometimes...Feeling nostalgic they want to be heroes of the four-color variety.
    When that comes about I support it the best I can (which is why I created the Dragonlance plot that I run on occasions) and our other DM runs very lighterhearted heroic games for the players when I'm at work.

    Still, I've found that the AP's provide just enough grit and darkness for me to feel satisfied and yet still allow for the PC's to be the "light in the dark".

    Sovereign Court

    Personally, I'm perfectly happy with the dark and gritty aspect in Paizo modules. It adds an interesting dimension to the adventures, and distracts everyone from the dull "kill the monsters, loot the treasure, level up" mentality.


    I'm a big fan of the darkness myself. I'd not want to see it change.


    Whimsy Chris wrote:
    Wyrmshadows wrote:

    To add an observation about LoTR.

    LoTR IME is darker than most D&D/fantasy RPG campaigns I have seen. The danger is ever-present for the heroes in LoTR while in D&D death is sometimes nothing more than a speedbump. In LoTR heroes couldn't easily escape from foes using magic, they couldn't detect evil, they weren't fantasy superheroes (Legolas in the movies notwithstanding), annd they weren't dripping with magical trinkets.

    In other words many D&D campaigns are veritable Disneylands compared to LoTR in regards to actual darkness. Many campaigns could learn a lot from LoTR as well as te writing of Howard and Moorcock to make things grittier. The more difficualt the journey, the most satisfying the victory.

    I respectfully disagree. The examples you give - little magic, inability to detect evil, and no fantasy superheroes - doesn't make LOTR more dark, but more based in reality. What sets Pathfinder apart is its gore factor: eaten faces, missing jaws, dead soldier's blood used for red paint, rape, children eaten by sharks, and so on. A lot of these factors would be out of place in LOTR (I haven't read anything but the trilogy so I can't speak for other books), or at least not given gory detail. However, Tolkien does go at length to describe beautiful landscapes, poetry, heroic characters, and so on. Sure, many dark things happen, but it's the way they are told and what is given attention that ultimately leaves the impression.

    I'm not saying that LoTR is darker than paizo's APs I am saying that its darker than most campaigns I've seen run by other DMs. Also, I think reality is darker at its heart than most D&D campaigns. The level of sheer awfulness in our own history is stunning. Any real empire could easily challenge most fantasy 'evil' empires for depravity. As an example, Rome may not have had devils walking around, but many Roman practices were certainly wholly evil by D&D standards.

    Even though insane levels of utter depravity were rather rare, such as cannibal murderers and folks who would use blood as paint, the truth is that real life is often more full of banality, cruelty, petty evils, moral ambiguities, social injustice, racism, classism, mysogyny, ignorance, etc. than any fantasy kingdom not aligned to evil.


    Whimsy Chris wrote:
    Wyrmshadows wrote:

    To add an observation about LoTR.

    LoTR IME is darker than most D&D/fantasy RPG campaigns I have seen. The danger is ever-present for the heroes in LoTR while in D&D death is sometimes nothing more than a speedbump. In LoTR heroes couldn't easily escape from foes using magic, they couldn't detect evil, they weren't fantasy superheroes (Legolas in the movies notwithstanding), annd they weren't dripping with magical trinkets.

    In other words many D&D campaigns are veritable Disneylands compared to LoTR in regards to actual darkness. Many campaigns could learn a lot from LoTR as well as te writing of Howard and Moorcock to make things grittier. The more difficualt the journey, the most satisfying the victory.

    I respectfully disagree. The examples you give - little magic, inability to detect evil, and no fantasy superheroes - doesn't make LOTR more dark, but more based in reality. What sets Pathfinder apart is its gore factor: eaten faces, missing jaws, dead soldier's blood used for red paint, rape, children eaten by sharks, and so on. A lot of these factors would be out of place in LOTR (I haven't read anything but the trilogy so I can't speak for other books), or at least not given gory detail. However, Tolkien does go at length to describe beautiful landscapes, poetry, heroic characters, and so on. Sure, many dark things happen, but it's the way they are told and what is given attention that ultimately leaves the impression.

    Tolkin has more than his fair share of truely horrible and creepy things in the lord of the rings, from the concepts of wraithdom he portrayed, through to oldman willow. Shelob through to massive battles and the Watcher in the Water. It is perhapes one of Tolkins great failing, or more a sign of the times that he did not capture the horror of war, save in the details of the scourging of the shire.

    To my knowledge, you no child is ever eaten on camera in curse of the crimson throne, and in truth, the nothing involving Lamm is truely any worse than fagin in oliver twist. In many ways the lamm scene pulls its punchs with regards to this. A, no wife beating by a sikes like character and no religious bigotry.

    As for Blood being used to create sigils, Dark city's opening scene has a dead, naked prostitue, with swirling patterns drawn on her skin in her own blood. However, i wouldn't consider it gore, but rather a hugely and intentionally beautiful and distrubing image.

    There is some gore in the paizo products, notibly in the hook mountain massicre, but i have never yet seen it cross the line into bad taste.

    If paizo did start pulling its punchs and making scenes which should be shocking not so, or if it moved to telling stories which provided fewer shades of gray and easier issues, i would nolonger have a reason to buy paizo products.


    Wyrmshadows wrote:

    I'm not saying that LoTR is darker than paizo's APs I am saying that its darker than most campaigns I've seen run by other DMs. Also, I think reality is darker at its heart than most D&D campaigns. The level of sheer awfulness in our own history is stunning. Any real empire could easily challenge most fantasy 'evil' empires for depravity. As an example, Rome may not have had devils walking around, but many Roman practices were certainly wholly evil by D&D standards.

    Even though insane levels of utter depravity...

    I agree that reality certainly has its terrible truths, but not because we don't have magic or superheroes (it would be nice to detect evil from time to time though, wouldn't it?). But even in reality, what one chooses to focus on can make the difference between being "dark" or not. If I choose to study medieval torture machines, I best be ready for it. In fact I choose not too, because I don't necessarily need those disturbing thoughts nor do I think I'll grow as person doing so.

    I'm much more comfortable with the fantasy cruelty than anything. But even when it comes to fantasy darkness, it's not something I want all the time. Overall, I'd say Paizo's 1st AP is pretty dark, and I personally wouldn't mind if they just eased up a bit - there are other aesthetic directions one can go without being "watered down." But Paizo's darkness is just one aspect of the adventures - it's not going to make or break my appreciation.


    Zombieneighbours wrote:
    Tolkin has more than his fair share of truely horrible and creepy things in the lord of the rings, from the concepts of wraithdom he portrayed, through to oldman willow. Shelob through to massive battles and the Watcher in the Water. It is perhapes one of Tolkins great failing, or more a sign of the times that he did not capture the horror of war, save in the details of the scourging of the shire.

    There are some very creepy things in Tolkien, but I don't get the overall sense of depravity that I sometimes feel left with in a Paizo adventure. A tree that attempts to squeeze a person to death is aesthetically different than chopping off a person's jaw.

    Zombieneighbours wrote:
    To my knowledge, you no child is ever eaten on camera in curse of the crimson throne, and in truth, the nothing involving Lamm is truely any worse than f#*in in oliver twist. In many ways the lamm scene pulls its punchs with regards to this. A, no wife beating by a sikes like character and no religious bigotry.

    True, no child is eaten "on camera" but the fact remains that it's still on paper and I still read it. I'm not saying they are going to far, just that such a detail adds to the overall dark feel of the adventures. Oliver Twist is pretty dark but at the same time, no one's face is eaten. And there are many moments of heroism.

    Zombieneighbours wrote:

    There is some gore in the paizo products, notibly in the hook mountain massicre, but i have never yet seen it cross the line into bad taste.

    If paizo did start pulling its punchs and making scenes which should be shocking not so, or if it moved to telling stories which provided fewer shades of gray and easier issues, i would nolonger have a reason to buy paizo products.

    But one doesn't always have to shock to have an effect. I've never accused Paizo of bad taste, but the constant shock effects (I could easily find many more dark elements all across the 1st AP) can get old. I'd just like to see them attempt another aesthetic in another AP.


    Illessa wrote:
    Part of good horror (and good gritty storytelling) is all about the balance; if every dungeon you enter is filled with torture, rape and flying viscera...

    What is the fly speed of viscera and what is its manueverability? Just planning an encounter...

    Scarab Sages

    Gurubabaramalamaswami wrote:
    Illessa wrote:
    Part of good horror (and good gritty storytelling) is all about the balance; if every dungeon you enter is filled with torture, rape and flying viscera...
    What is the fly speed of viscera and what is its manueverability? Just planning an encounter...

    Hee!

    Maybe it should glide like a Phanaton :P

    Dammit... you've got the idea in my head now, I'm going to have to use those icky swarms from Entombed with the Pharoahs, give them a 40ft (good) fly speed and have them randomly accost my CotCT party in Scarwall or something...


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
    Gurubabaramalamaswami wrote:


    What is the fly speed of viscera and what is its manueverability? Just planning an encounter...

    Depends. Is it part of a Pennangalan?

    Sovereign Court

    I'm curious, why is horror and viscera considered more mature and adult than your standard high fantasy? There are a lot of people in this argument who equate darkness with complexity and goodness with pabulum. Where does this notion come from?

    -5 points to the first person to quote Dark Helmet.


    Selk wrote:

    I'm curious, why is horror and viscera considered more mature and adult than your standard high fantasy? There are a lot of people in this argument who equate darkness with complexity and goodness with pabulum. Where does this notion come from?

    -5 points to the first person to quote Dark Helmet.

    Selk...you are now my Hero.


    Honestly, that's part of what I like about the pathfinder material. Different strokes for different folks and all that. Overall I don't find it to be everpresent (by any means) - it's more a matter of who's writing the material, though I'm happy that such an editorial policy exists to allow such content.
    Obviously, YMMV.


    Selk wrote:

    I'm curious, why is horror and viscera considered more mature and adult than your standard high fantasy? There are a lot of people in this argument who equate darkness with complexity and goodness with pabulum. Where does this notion come from?

    -5 points to the first person to quote Dark Helmet.

    While Good may be laudable, facing Good-villains can be an even greater quandary to PC-players than fighting evil ones. In that sense, the desire for many of us to confront real 'monsters' is greater than cookie-cutter-critters.

    As far as playing borderline heroes, v. true scumbags, if you don't get it, you are likely much better a person than most and shouldn't tarnish yourself with seeking the answers. I'm not being sarcastic. If this stuff offends you and you find yourself overwhelmed by the mere mention of heinous acts, kudos, your soul is less tarnished than many. You may very well have to either write your own gaming material or buy Old Skool, black and white stuff. Goodman Games modules are on 50% discount here on Paizo's site. They need to get rid of it due to the d20 / GSL thingie.

    Honestly, best to you on being more intact. Nothing to be ashamed of.

    Best,

    Liberty's Edge

    Sothrim wrote:
    More gritty and dark, please.

    Ditto, count me into the crowd who likes it dark, gritty, and deep.

    Dark Archive

    Selk wrote:
    I'm curious, why is horror and viscera considered more mature and adult than your standard high fantasy? There are a lot of people in this argument who equate darkness with complexity and goodness with pabulum. Where does this notion come from?

    Human nature to tear things down, possibly from a frustrated sense of social competition, or some such psychobabble analysis. The only thing we like more than a hero, is to see a hero fall. If one person says that a thing is glorious, someone else feels the need to point out how much it sucks.

    These days, a story like Lord of the Rings is a classic, but not something that would make it on the bestseller lists if written today, because 'heroes' are expected to be clay-footed noirish figures with tragic flaws, such as alcoholics, ex-prisoners, reformed villains, members of 'evil' races or societies, from some despised outcast subculture or minority, etc. Genuinely noble or pure-intentioned characters are portrayed as naive, or even as jokes, such as Hiro on Heroes, who almost seems embarassingly honest next to the more cynical and worldly characters like Nikki, Nathan, D.L., etc. (When your season one crew of 'Heroes' includes a heroin-addict, a stripper, an escaped convict, a serial killer, a politician wrestling with the notion of sacrificing his brother to win an election, etc. it's kind of a dire portent!)

    Instead of forest kingdoms of gentle wise elves, societies based around necromancy are the new cool, and elves might be distant and possibly cruel otherworldly ex-overlords cast in an Unseelie or Melnibonean light, racists who keep apart from humanity (and might believe that mankind needs to be 'tamed' and 'kept in check' for it's own good) or even tattooed wood-dwelling savages. Instead of bucolic 'hobbit' bumpkins, we've got cannibals and dinosaur-riding barbarians.

    People are jaded. And we always have been. It's nothing new. Drizzt wasn't the first dark flawed hero. Neither were The Watchman. Nor The Crow. Nor many Noir detectives. Nor 'Good Guys wear Black.' Nor John Wayne. Nor Robin Hood. (And in some cases, such as the aforementioned Crow and Watchmen, dark is freaking AWESOME.)

    As for gore, whatever. I grew up on a farm. With such childhood fun as pushing a wheelbarrow full of sheep's intestines across 60 acres to the pit where we dumped such things, having them split open and fill the air with the rank odor of partially digested matter (you think it smells bad when it comes out? *Nothing* compared to how it smells when it's still 'cooking!'), I find movies that celebrate gore or torture to be tiresome, pandering to extremely sheltered people who apparently have never noticed that those animals dead on the side of the road with their guts hanging out aren't terribly glamorous.

    As with most things labeled 'mature,' these days, I find that most of them would only appeal to someone who *isn't* what I would consider mature. I think they are marketed that way, to appeal to the immature, just like cigarettes being marketed by cartoon animals.

    Selk wrote:
    -5 points to the first person to quote Dark Helmet.

    "Say goodbye to your two best friends!"

    I couldn't help it. I'll take my -5 pts now!

    Sovereign Court

    Kyrinn S. Eis wrote:
    Selk wrote:

    I'm curious, why is horror and viscera considered more mature and adult than your standard high fantasy? There are a lot of people in this argument who equate darkness with complexity and goodness with pabulum. Where does this notion come from?

    -5 points to the first person to quote Dark Helmet.

    While Good may be laudable, facing Good-villains can be an even greater quandary to PC-players than fighting evil ones. In that sense, the desire for many of us to confront real 'monsters' is greater than cookie-cutter-critters.

    As far as playing borderline heroes, v. true scumbags, if you don't get it, you are likely much better a person than most and shouldn't tarnish yourself with seeking the answers. I'm not being sarcastic. If this stuff offends you and you find yourself overwhelmed by the mere mention of heinous acts, kudos, your soul is less tarnished than many. You may very well have to either write your own gaming material or buy Old Skool, black and white stuff. Goodman Games modules are on 50% discount here on Paizo's site. They need to get rid of it due to the d20 / GSL thingie.

    Honestly, best to you on being more intact. Nothing to be ashamed of.

    Best,

    Maybe I misrepresented myself. I'm not against a good dose of horror in a game, and I’m not exactly unfamiliar with a stomach churner (In my RotRL campaign I gave the characters a peek at Mammy Graul’s underside as she was flying around the barn. They saw a zombie child-thing attached there, massaging her bed sores).

    What I’m concerned about is the popular idea that there’s greater skill involved in telling and appreciating a dark story. People speak as though they’ve graduated to a more sophisticated milieu when, from my experience, they’re often just exploring another overbaked facet of pop-culture.

    Mind bending horror doesn’t offend me, but the idea that it’s deeper or more complex than standard fantasy does. Original, involving storytelling exists in both genres and both can suffer from cookie-cutter treatments.

    Edit: Set, thank you. Lovely post. Gets to the heart of my gripe.


    Selk wrote:

    Maybe I misrepresented myself. I'm not against a good dose of horror in a game, and I’m not exactly unfamiliar with a good stomach churner (In my RotRL campaign I gave the characters a peek at Mammy Graul’s underside as she was flying around the barn. They saw that a zombie child-thing attached there, massaging her bed sores).

    What I’m concerned about, though, is the popular idea that there’s greater skill involved in telling and appreciating a dark story. People speak as though they’ve graduated to a more sophisticated milieu when, from my experience, they’re often just exploring another overbaked facet of pop-culture.

    Mind bending horror doesn’t offend me: but the idea that it’s deeper or more complex than standard fantasy does. Original, involving storytelling exists I both...

    Because devolution is a sort of progress. While the world's cultures devolve, the populace grows to despise the Light and Good, and find delight in the Dark and Terrible. It's just the latest iteration of it. I agree that a Good Guy story is more difficult to sell to an audience (I write novels that are Transangelic, Mortal angels confronting humanity and incarnation), so I get where you are coming from. I was explaining it from the world's perspective. My apologies if that didn't come across clearly.

    Scarab Sages

    Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
    Whimsy Chris wrote:

    Classic Monsters Revisited is a great resource and has rejuvenated some of the trope creatures at least for me. I *love* goblins now.

    Yup. Knu from The Haunted Forest (TC1) was sooo bad, that when the Black Banners surrendered and said they didn't care about Knu, the party let them live (even the Urgathoan cleric...yes!).

    In fact, when Knu went down at the end and self-stabilized the party cleric of Gorum cast a bleed on him to finish the job...

    {which means I might have to have Knu come back as an undead gobbo-thingy...)

    I like the dark-cast of Golarion and the Pathfinder APs. I actually think that LoTR was pretty dark...do we forget Moria, the Dead Marshes, Shelbob, Mordor? Saurman and Denethor's corruption by the Palantir? I like that Paizo has taken a more sword&sorcery bent in the tradition of REH, Lovecraft and Leiber.

    Some players like this grimdark feel where some victories are pyrrhic , others want to win all the time with impunity.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
    Selk wrote:

    I'm curious, why is horror and viscera considered more mature and adult than your standard high fantasy? There are a lot of people in this argument who equate darkness with complexity and goodness with pabulum. Where does this notion come from?

    -5 points to the first person to quote Dark Helmet.

    Honestly? Aside from the fact that I'm getting a little tired of the word pabulum... you're absolutely half-right. There's nothing inherently mature and adult about wanting to see viscera. Nine year old boys want to see viscera, and that's why we have PG-13 and R ratings, so we can judge when not to let them. It's mature to be able to handle the idea of blood and gore in media mentally and emotionally, and understand how much of it you want, how much is tasteful to your standards, and how much you can stomach after dinner. If anything, focusing on gore and blood could be said to give in to immature impulses... but that's not really fair to zombie movie fans, many of whom enjoy a good dose of social commentary with their rending flesh and gnawing viscera. Perhaps it's better to call it basic and gripping on an instinctive level. It can be powerful when done right, and gratuitous when not.

    On the other hand, Horror without gore is... harder to achieve without complexity and nuance, so I would call it closer to mature by definition.

    As for High Fantasy, I think a lot of us are burned out on it. I know I am. When I'm not feeling very nice, I call it a retread of a retread of a retread of a retread of material well hammered out by Tolkien.

    Can you see where the extremely processed food analogy comes in here?

    The reason dark is equated with complexity is that it brings shades of gray to the table. Most high fantasy assumes that we're fighting the bad guys because they're bad. They hurt, kill, and steal, and do lots of bad things off screen, and need to die for it. It's easy. Simple.

    In a more complex situation, we fight the kobolds because they're stealing people from the town, but we also might wonder whether or not they're really doing it because they're bad, or because their king happens to be crazed and they're just following orders; or even just because the humans are encroaching on their territory. We also wonder what we're saving the people for if just to turn them over to work for a cruel mining baron, and might have cause to wonder if his aggressive endeavors into kobold mountains is the cause for the vicious kobold retaliations. Is he the real evil? The people still need to be protected, and the kobolds still need to be stopped, but a lot of the best way of getting from point A to point B becomes muddier.

    One might say... darker.


    I dont know if I would call what you described as "darker" just more complicated.

    The diffrence to me is Dirty Harry vs the Movie Seven.
    Dirty Harry had its share of Tough Decisions and Anti Heroes
    Seven was Darker.
    Why? The best I can tell is because in Seven no one wins. In Dirty Harry the "good guy" still comes out on top without having to feel like a schmo for doing so, and still gets to go home and feel like he did the right thing.
    Seven not so much.
    Of course as always YMMV

    Silver Crusade

    'Evil shall always triumph, because good is dumb.'
    - Dark Helmet

    (I'll take my -5 points)

    'Heroes have an infinite capacity for stupidity.'
    - Thor

    Walter Simonson's run on Marvel Comics Thor was without a doubt some of the best work done in comics when I was growing up, as it lent something to the series that was lacking at the time...a sense of high fantasy.

    I've seen the term 'high fantasy' thrown about here and I think that it is something that should be defined. Because what I think of as high fantasy (Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Zorro, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc.) alot of you probably don't see as being that way. To me, high fantasy is all about the action. The swashbuckling, the derring-do. The level of magic, to me, is not a factor.

    The Lord of the Rings trilogy does not come off to me as high fantasy, yet The Hobbit does. Why is that? Bilbo Baggins. Here is someone that is taken out of his hobbit-hole and placed in danger's way and all he had to work with pretty much were his wits. Sure he had Sting and the Ring of Invisibility, but what got him and the others through their perils was far more arcane than even those items. Frodo, in contrast, wanted to be like his uncle but in the end couldn't quite manage it. Sam, on the other hand, was more like Bilbo than Frodo in this regard.

    Which brings me back to Thor's quote (he was battling the Midgard Serpent while under a curse from Hel that not only prevented him from recovering from any injuries he received but kept him from dying). This is what I think is at the root of true high fantasy. Heroes manage to endure things that most intelligent people would never put themselves through. A true villain counts on the common sense of others to eventually prevail in as far as undergoing the hardships that one would have to face to see their plans thwarted. Which, of course, is why heroes are so darned annoying. True heroes don't know that they are supposed to lose, so they just keep coming and somehow manage to do it with a smile on their face. That to me is at the root of high fantasy.


    Conan: Pre-cursor to dark fantasy
    Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser: loosely high fantasy
    Zorro: Swashbuckling pulp
    Star Wars: space opera
    Indiana Jones: pulp

    C.S.lewis and tolkin are two of the premier examples of high fantasy, ad could even be called the fathers of the genre. In roleplaying, both Greyhawk and Dragonlance are major examples of this.

    Possibly the defining feature of High fantasy is clear cut morality. Good guys ad bad guys, with the actions of the good guys always being cosidered moral, because they are the good guys and the bad guys beig evil.

    This is why low and dark fantasy setting can be considered more mature, as they treat morality with a greater degree of respect. There are actions which heros take, or are forced to take, which are fudimentally not good, and Dark fantasy helps us explore this. In high fantasy, it is okay to kill a tribe of goblins, because they are the Bad guys, that is all the justification that is needed. In dark fantasy, said goblins are treated with more respect, they are sentient creatures, which are responding to some outside ifluence. Be it lack of food, due to human encroachment on their territory or the influence of something worse.

    Dark fantasy forces use to look at the actions of our characters and play something more than a 'three colour hero.'

    Grand Lodge

    Wyrmshadows wrote:

    Please keep it dark.

    I never liked the whole shiney happy killers thing

    This could make for an intersting Henchman for a Boss. A Bard, probably, that is just plain psycho, whistles little happy tunes while he murders, munches on a shiny apple while he dismembers, and uses decapitated heads for hand puppets in a freakshow children's play...

    definitely an urban adventure... could be freaky nasty.

    Hey, LOGUE! What can you do with that character? I throws down the gauntlet :)


    Krome wrote:
    Wyrmshadows wrote:

    Please keep it dark.

    I never liked the whole shiney happy killers thing

    This could make for an intersting Henchman for a Boss. A Bard, probably, that is just plain psycho, whistles little happy tunes while he murders, munches on a shiny apple while he dismembers, and uses decapitated heads for hand puppets in a freakshow children's play...

    definitely an urban adventure... could be freaky nasty.

    Hey, LOGUE! What can you do with that character? I throws down the gauntlet :)

    Already been done, sorry.

    Spoiler:
    Their is apparently an evil cleric like that in CotCT


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

    I think a distinction may need to be drawn between "shades of gray" dark, and "explicit-material" dark. There's a difference between when motivations are muddied because of complications, and showing explicity and unequivically, horrible acts and in-your-face cruelties and vices, (whether for so-called "torture-porn" purposes or to demonstrate the face of evil.)

    It might be a good excersise to talk about how much of Pathfinder has the former, and how much has the latter, and to what degree you enjoy or object to either.


    Drakli wrote:

    I think a distinction may need to be drawn between "shades of gray" dark, and "explicit-material" dark. There's a difference between when motivations are muddied because of complications, and showing explicity and unequivically, horrible acts and in-your-face cruelties and vices, (whether for so-called "torture-porn" purposes or to demonstrate the face of evil.)

    It might be a good excersise to talk about how much of Pathfinder has the former, and how much has the latter, and to what degree you enjoy or object to either.

    The thing is, paizo has tred the line fairly reasonably. Only rarely having crossed into the realm of bad taste.


    I'm not certain but I think some of the reason that High fantasy is seen as less mature than darker gritter fantasy in D&D terms is the quality of the adventures. Obvious this goes for purely adventure. High fantasy was the style of most of the early adventures. Go in kill the maraunding giants get the treasure style stuff without as much moral complications or dark details of what the giants actually did. Dark fantasy on the other had featured elements like complicated Villains with dark back story, foul deeds, realistic grimy and depressing settings (not an extensive list or one all dark fantasy conforms to).

    The reason I think in D&D terms dark fantasy is seen as more mature is that rarely in the high fantasy adventure was there the same level of depth of character and realism that there is in some of the darker more modern adventures. I (and admittedly don't have masses of experience with the older editions) haven't heard of many high fantasy adventures with the depth of narrative and backstory as dark adventures like HMM.
    Also dark fantasy is a newer thing in D&D and as such has a certain amount of novelty value. Plus a lot of high fantasy has been done to death. With High fantasy it is very easy to do something that has been done before and can easily slip into cliche.

    Personally I think paizo could do great adult high fantasy if they approached it with their approach to deep storytelling and realistic characters. I don't think high fantasy is inherrantly less adult than dark fantasy it's just it hasn't really been approached with modern adventure design senibilities.

    That said for me the level of darkness is just right. I like the fact that the villainous are truly horrendous sometimes. As it easier to just leave that out for your players than it is to try and create it yourself.

    Just my thoughts on it.

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