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Frog God Games reveals the next Lost Lands piece with The Blight, for Pathfinder, Swords & Wizardry, (and now!) 5e.
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"Weird," not "Modern"

Posted by Frog God Games (Creator)

Matt Finch writing here, with a bit of a blog-like post about the nature of the Blight. These are my opinions, and Richard might actually disagree with my conclusions, so take them as you will. I wasn't involved in the original writing for the Blight, so these are subjective reactions to my initial "cold read" on the book.

A few people are worried about the apparent "Victorian" feel of the city of Castorhage, concerned that it might have too modern a vibe for a traditional fantasy campaign. Fear not! The introductory materials we've shown, and the fact that we're using some photographs, can definitely create that impression; but that's because teaser material almost by definition gives only a surface view of things.

It's absolutely true that Castorhage has a unique feel to it, one that's different from the Tolkienesque type of fantasy setting. In point of fact, the Blight is more related to the "weird fiction" methods of pulp novels than it is to Tolkien. That doesn't mean you'll automatically like it, of course, but I think it will dispel the idea that the setting is "modern." It's neither modern nor archaic, it's in a time frame that never existed in our world, which is why I'd put it in a category with the strange worlds of Michael Moorcock, the dreamlands of Lovecraft, and even to a degree with M.A.R. Barker's world of Tekumel. [Note: I'm going to add here someone else's impression quoted on Tenkar's Tavern, that the Blight is where Planescape meets Ravenloft. I think that's equally accurate as what I'm about to say below.]

But about the weird fantasy and sword & sorcery authors. As an example of what I mean, the Blight is a setting related to the way Michael Moorcock "built" Granbretan in the Hawkmoon novels. In structure, Granbretan is a possibly-post-apocalyptic setting with elements of Nazi Germany, baroque technology, and yet solidly rooted in fantasy even though there are flying vehicles and flamethrowers ... after all, the masked and armored warrior societies of Granbretan are opposed by people on giant flamingos with their own "flame lances." It's not "modern." because it's so divorced from realistic modernity that the modern elements don't create a modern feel. It's decoupled from reality, and it's decoupled from history. Interestingly, this ahistorical feel is offset in Granbretan with a major focus on clocks, and I find it interesting that Richard's Blight ALSO has a big focus on clocks. The Blight has modern elements that don't match up with history, putting it in an odd "between" space. That's also emphasized because the Blight is simultaneously threaded with an actual connection to a dimensional Between. These elements come together into something that Moorcock could have written, a blending of elements to create a place where the concepts of "modern" and "archaic" fail to function simply because as a whole they are so far outside the framework of anything, even though the elements themselves can all be identified as being similar to something from the real world.

So, what's the result here? Yes, the society in the Blight has very, very strong Victorian elements, roughly at the level of prominence with which Moorcock infused Granbretan with a Nazi-like feel. There's no question that the Victorian element will be felt. However, it's weirded up by a number of other things that eliminate the modern feel of the Victoriana, and make it into weird fiction rather than just "elves in Victorian London." There are no guns. The guards wear armor. The city's reality is infused with a nasty, creeping dimensional connection, and parts of the city even seem to intersect with distant places, receding again to their original lairs, like frustrated mold incursions. Jack the Ripper blends into a dark Alice-in-Wonderland, which blends into necromantic industry, which blends into the presence of monsters of all kinds in the city itself. It's a unique place, constructed from all kinds of elements, some identifiable from literature and history, others purely drawn from Richard's rather odd mind. It's still a completely valid question as to whether it's your cup of tea, but it's far more bizarre and alien than just elves in Victorian London.

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    1. Frog God Games 24-time creator on

      I agree, the organization of Ptolus is breathtaking, especially the extensive internal cross-referencing. Alas, that level of organization is a ways beyond our little company's skills. Monte really knocked it out of the park with that book, and I've honestly I'm not sure I've seen anything get even close to that level of internal indexing again.

      The Blight will be a much simpler organization divided between the various districts of the city. Page references are always problematic for us, because when you produce a book in 2 or 3 different rules versions, the pages change between each one which expands the probability for errors exponentially. We try to minimize that as much as possible. When there is an internal reference of significance mentioned in the text, we call it out by chapter (or subsection as needed) and encounter area/room number, and it is bolded. The chapter numbering doesn't change between versions, so the error likelihood gets cut way down. We do have an extensive Table of Contents, so once you've got the chapter number and encounter number, it's really pretty easy to locate the desired text. It adds an extra step on Monte's version (since it takes you to the ToC rather than the exact page number) but requires about a tenth of the work on our part and allows us to make more than 1 book a year and avoid the page numbering errors from juggling different versions of the same book. :-)

      Anyway, glad you're excited! Thanks for the questions and comments. Keep 'em coming if you think of any more.


    2. Missing avatar

      Guild on

      Thanks for your response! I would encourage you to check out how Ptolus is internally cross-referenced to aid in keeping track of all the interconnections a massive city setting necessarily has.

      Oh, and I happen to LOVE Moorcock, so you got me sold right there!

    3. Frog God Games 24-time creator on

      ...and, that was Matt writing -- I forgot to sign the post...

    4. Frog God Games 24-time creator on

      @Richard, Oh yes, I have an American first edition of Titus Groan because I love Peake's writing that much, but I'm still going to stick to my Moorcock analogy. :)

    5. Frog God Games 24-time creator on

      Sorry, Guild. No one's trying to avoid your question, it's just a very difficult one to answer because none of us has ever read that significantly through Ptolus. I guess I'm the most well read on it, but I have probably only been through a quarter of my copy in the last 6 or 7 years.

      My take would be that The Blight is not that similar to Ptolus. Ptolus was Monte's showcase of the many bells and whistles of the new 3/3.5 edition packed into a coherent campaign setting. As such, it was very holistic in my opinion--he seemed to be making sure to get everything in there, even though not always in the traditionally thought of ways (the fact that summoned outsiders became trapped comes to mind in particular). But as a whole, my impression of Ptolus was a far more general feeling for a campaign complete with urban adventure, dungeon crawling, and even a Sauron-type of evil looming over all. Not that it wasn't flavorful (because it was, and Monte is a great writer), but it was much broader in its aspect I would say.

      Blight is much more distinct in its feel, whether you want to call it Gothic, or darkly Victorian, or Moorcockian, or whatever, it clings much more closely to its identity throughout. Ptolus included those elements but also went in a lot of other directions too as a kind of campaign Everyman, I thought. So I would definitely say there are similarities to Ptolus but I think The Blight fits more distinctly into its principal atmosphere than Ptolus tries to in my opinion.

      Not sure if that's helpful or not, but hopefully it sheds some light as a comparison.


    6. Richard Pett on

      eek, sorry Guild, I've never had a copy of Ptolus, I'm seeing if the one that knows everything can help...

    7. Missing avatar

      Guild on

      or not I guess...

    8. Richard Pett on

      Ah, you know I would never disagree with you Matt…

      I think you have it very close my dear chap, and thank you. I’d go slightly more with Steel_Wind in that I love Mervyn Peake and Gothic, and it’s a shame he’s not so widely known across the US as SW mentions, if you do see a copy of Gormenghast, please do invest, he’s an amazing writer. The Capitol (have we mentioned the Capitol much yet?, if not we should, the ruling families are bad) certainly is Peake in its influence.

      The Styes came from when I first read China Mieville after a lifetime of Moorcock (and thanks for mentioning his name in your summary Matt, I love Moorcock with a passion), but I guess like all of us we’re influenced by so many great fantasy works when we write adventures (and I’m thinking Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman and Tad Williams amongst many fantastic writers for me personally) that it may have little twisted bits of all of them rolled into one big frightening city. I do hope so. The Blight also, however, has a very healthy dose of Alice and Frankenstein; I guess I think it’s like a sponge of all the things I think are cool and vaguely disturbing pulled through the mangle, a very bloated, sweaty and slightly sticky sponge of course – huzzah!

    9. Steel_Wind on

      The feeling is Gothic, though not necessarily Victorian. The touchstone that bleeds through the reddest to me from the preview was clearly Gormenghast. Peake is not that widely read in the USA, but that's the feeling of The Blight to me conveyed via the preview. My .02 cents.

    10. Nomad Terrain on

      You had me at Planescape meets Ravenloft. The more you reveal the more interested I am.

    11. Missing avatar

      Guild on

      Thanks for this description...could you compare contrast it with Monte Cook's Ptolus? That would really help me get a good feel for it.