I remember what it was like to be a Dungeons & Dragons fan in the 90's. D&D's a game about sweeping imaginary worlds populated by strange people and dotted with wonder and mystery. Back then, there were tons of different settings to play in. They came out almost yearly: Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Al-Qadim, Planescape, Birthright. What these settings all have in common is a unique genre and style embodied in each.
Well, times change. Here we are in 2015 and no campaign setting products in sight. But you and I can change that!
The Darkplane universe is a campaign setting of weird horror for 5th edition (of, you know, everyone's favorite RPG) that blends all sorts of pulp genres into a rich, culturally diverse history. Since the book is largely system-neutral, it'll be a valuable asset to any horror or dark fantasy roleplaying game.
Darkplane is hugely influenced by pulp writers, especially the masters of weird fiction like H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, and even more contemporary authors like China Miéville and Anne Rice. Its stories rely on an overarching, seductive sense of dread and mystery. They're about cults, hauntings, twisted monsters, and breaking away from moral simplicity.
The world of 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.
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.
WANT MORE ABOUT THE SETTING?
Check out darkplane.com for additional information and content on the universe of the Darkplane campaign setting.
The goal of this Kickstarter campaign is to raise $6,400 to publish the sourcebook (Darkplane: A Campaign Setting). That money will go to artwork, design, and printing the books. I've already spent thousands of dollars and hours to make this book a reality, but I'm poor and I've hit a wall with the amount that I can do on my own. This book is only going to happen with your help, so pledge now and become part of the Darkplane family!
Darkplane: A Campaign Setting will provide players with a wealth of resources for running weird horror adventures, specifically set in the Darkplane universe (but easily drawn out into other systems and settings). The book is 90% written already, crammed with maps, monsters, gods, cults, artifacts, spells, and custom character options like races, backgrounds, and subclasses. Everything has been playtested to slip comfortably into your D&D campaign and inspire years of adventures. All it needs is art and a cover.
The appearance, content, and quality of the book depend on how many stretch goals we hit. Since we've passed our first three stretch goals, it will be a 8.5 x 11, 225-page hardcover with full-color interior. After the rest of the stretch goals, though, it'll be extra pretty. See Stretch Goals below for more information.
SCHEDULE FOR FULFILLMENT
June 2015 - January 2016: Commission art, complete the written content and layout.
February 2016 - June 2016: Polish the layout, add the artwork, and prepare the book to print.
July 2016 - August 2016: Printing, shipment, and reward delivery.
Note: The imagery above is representative of the finished products and is subject to change. I may not be as handsome in person.
If you want to get a some more cool items as part of your reward, use these add-ons. Get as many as you like. Just adjust your pledge up by the amount listed for each add-on you want. The specifics will be worked out through a survey after the campaign ends, so you can always adjust and reconsider which add-ons you'd like until that point.
+$15 The Vinramar Gazetteer PDF: Get a digital download of this 90-page PDF of high-resolution maps detailing the various regions, nations, and locales of the world of Vinramar.
+$20 Art Poster: You get a 12 x 18" poster of an art piece featured in the book. You can choose from 4 or so options during the backer survey (this might be a separate survey once more art has been commissioned to give you as many options as possible).
+$20 Reference Deck: You get a deck of about 40 reference cards listing the important information on various deities, world regions, factions, and other setting elements. I've used these in my games for years, and find them extremely helpful.
+$25 Poster Map: You'll receive a poster map of your choice from the options below:
- A 20 x 30" map depicting one of the 12 world regions in more detail (mountain ranges, forests, rivers, settlements, sites of interest, etc.). You choose which one you want. These work perfectly as campaign maps.
- A 24 x 36" world map depicting the various regions, nations, and major cities in the world of Vinramar. This is the map included with pledge levels $60 and higher, pictured below under Stretch Goals.
+$30 DM Screen: You get the finely-printed, four-panel, 8.5 x 44", fully-customizable DM screen with art on the front and small fasteners on the back where you can put whatever charts you want. You can take a look at my personal DM screen charts to see what I like, but I'm not going to force you to use those. You can use maps, adventure descriptions, your own charts, or handwritten notes, and they can change for every session you run.
+$35 Additional Physical Book. You'll get a single copy of the finished book in addition to any other rewards.
+$40 Custom Campaign Map: I'll make you a custom map for your personal campaign and send you the high-resolution image files. You describe the areas, provide notes or sketches for reference, and I'll do all the work to make it pretty.
+$60 Custom Set of 3 Poster Maps: You'll receive a set of 3 poster maps from the options listed under the Poster Map add-on.
+$90 Three-Book Bundle. You'll get three additional copies of the finished book. This one's great for gaming groups pooling their cash.
Shipping and fulfillment for the $40 level will be handled by Drive Thru RPG and Lightning Source. All other shipments and fulfillment will be done by me personally so I can sign the books, assemble the boxed sets, and make sure the packing is up to snuff.
Shipping charges are as follows:
- US, Canadian, and UK backers: Free shipping!
- Other International backers: Shipping is $7 for the Unction of Four Oblivions ($40), $15 for the Cyclopean Disciple ($60) and the Tenebrous Centurion ($75) levels, and $25 for levels that include the boxed set (except the Swirling Jaws of Infinity).
The more money we can raise, the prettier and fuller this book will be for everyone. We've hit the first two stretch goals, which makes our book a 225-page, 8.5 x 11 hardcover, filled with content like races, maps, adventure hooks, factions, deities, monsters, equipment, spells, magic items, and lore.
The next step is adding some goodies to existing pledge levels, like a city map for the Boxed set, a PDF of 100 pre-generated characters at various levels, and a transparency grid for measuring distance and travel time on the maps.
Keep your eyes peeled for updated stretch goals as we continue to fund. There's plenty more that awaits you!
In addition to these rewards, every time we hit one of these stretch goals, the following benefits will be unlocked:
- I'll post a digital one-shot adventure, accessible only to backers pledging $60 or more (and the Digital Oblivion backers).
- I'll make an additional add-on item available (GM screen, poster maps, and other mystery items not yet announced).
- I'll drop the cost of the Swirling Jaws of Infinity by $100 (until someone claims it or it hits $200). It's like a reverse auction!
I'm Graham Ward, a writer, actor, and filmmaker living in Denver with my awesome wife Bethany. Darkplane is my baby. I began early work on it in the days of 2nd edition D&D, when story and imagination were at the center of the game. I've been writing adventures, running campaigns, and expanding the world of Vinramar ever since. It's been a huge source of fun for my friends and me.
I'm the creator and lead writer on this project, but I'm helped by a great team of collaborators who have contributed concepts and writing over the more recent years of the setting's development: Kristy Eagar, Mike Eagar, Adam Rodger, Derrik Young, and Kent Lloyd.
I started playing D&D at age 10, and it's stuck with me for most of my life since. I've run campaigns all over the country in various cities I've lived, and even ran a short campaign in London while there for a study abroad.
Right now I work full-time as a professional actor at several theaters in Colorado. It's a bizarre career, but I love it. More recently I've been getting traction as a writer and filmmaker. Check out my recent no-budget short film The Hound.
I began working on elements of the Darkplane universe decades ago, but I didn’t know it at the time. It wasn’t until 2005 that I began the conscious creation of Darkplane by combining ideas and characters from various stories I had written. As I did this, I found a gradual change that had happened in my writing. The themes got darker and more cynical, the characters were increasingly mutilated by the world they lived in. I think, too, that the stories themselves began to speak in defense of the spiritual (but not necessarily the religious).
As I pieced the stories together, Vinramar began to take shape as a world where the simple honor and optimism of its youth had descended into a confusing and alien night. Of course, this is something like the journey every child takes as he or she grows up. It’s also the journey we’ve experienced as a collective human race. Nothing is simple anymore, and no one is free of scars.
This book is the first offering of the Darkplane universe, and I hope it won’t be the last. Use it however suits your purpose. Play roleplaying games set in it, write stories and novels from it, draw and paint and sculpt it into a tangible existence. I have for more than 10 years now, and it’s been a constant source of joy.
You may have seen me at gaming events in Denver, Boston, Utah, New Jersey, or London over the last few years. Now's our chance to form a community around this setting and put it in print.
THANK YOU FOR HELPING TO MAKE THIS PROJECT A REALITY!
Risks and challenges
With the sheer amount of material ready to go in this book, the only risk is unforeseen delays in production and shipping. I've given a generous amount of time to get everything finished, so if anything I expect to get the book finished and rewards out ahead of the above schedule. Still, I'll be giving regular written and video updates to keep everyone briefed on the process.
As I said above, I'm already in contact with many artists whose work has been seen in Magic: the Gathering, Legend of the Cryptids, and Fantasy Flight Games, so we're locked and loaded. All we need is the funding to put art and words together. Then we can print it and get it onto your game tables.
There may be those of you who have given creators money only to watch helplessly as things ground to a halt. I just want to say that I'm aware of situations like this and will be especially conscientious about updates and news. If things get tough or behind schedule you'll be the first to know. Luckily most of the grunt-work for this project is already complete. You can trust me to see it to the end. I've literally spent more than a thousand hours on this book. I'm not going to gas out now.
Darkplane has always been a gift I've shared with my friends. Now with your help I can share it with the world. Let's do this together. Thanks for your support!
A note about copyright: Wizards of the Coast owns Dungeons & Dragons and its associated intellectual property. This project will not be published or distributed in any way that violates copyright laws. It's a personal project that will be delivered as a gift to those who help fund its creation. No profit is expected, and no infringement intended. If no other avenue is provided, in a worst-case scenario, it will be printed without system-specific rules and backers will be provided with digital packets of the "crunch" for printing).
"Dungeons & Dragons" and "3E" are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, LLC. Graham Ward and Darkplane: A Campaign Setting are not affiliated with Wizards of the Coast LLC. We make no claim to, or challenge to, such trademarks.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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