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Warlock’s Apprentice: Horror in Roleplaying

Warlock’s Apprentice: Horror in Roleplaying

Chances are you’ll only take a trip to Midgard’s Blood Kingdom if your gaming group enjoys a fair bit of horror in your shared roleplaying experience. If this is the case, you’re in for a treat, for the Blood Kingdom is rife with dread. If you’re relatively new to the horror genre or simply reluctant to taste of its forbidden fruits, then rest assured: a little fear in your storytelling makes the light-hearted fare taste oh so sweeter. But whether you’re an experienced gore hound or a fledgling fear chaser, the Blood Kingdom beckons with open arms and eager fangs.

Genre and the Blood Kingdom

This material encourages you to embrace the darker side of your roleplaying, and it draws inspiration from a wide variety of grim and gothic tales—fitting with the dark fantasy surrounding the Midgard setting itself. Below ground, Nicoforus the Pale’s ghoulish minions toil for a grim future in which the Midgard they inhabit is less governed by the sun-loving nations of the surface. (If this means allegiance to Lucan and his bloodthirsty kin, then so be it.) In the realms above, an evil army of vampires has expanded from the seclusion of their mountain keeps, establishing one of the largest and most powerful dominions in the known world. The existence of the Blood Kingdom establishes a new normal.

Adventures in Morgau, Doresh, and Krakovar (as well as the caverns beneath) can be as convention-laden or as free of tropes as you’d like them to be. But don’t be afraid to lean on trope because a genre as nuanced as horror demands a certain amount of discipline to feel authentic and sincere, and this discipline is informed at every turn by the generations of horror storytellers that came before—how they innovated and what we can learn from them—stretching all the way back to the campfires of time immemorial. Study your favorites, and bring what they teach you to the table.

Fearful Omens

With the advent of the alliance between King Lucan and Nicoforus the Pale, the confederated Blood Kingdoms have ushered in a new era of prosperity for evil means and the monsters who perpetuate them. In the days and nights since Lucan’s grim treaty has come to pass, the denizens of the foul lands between Dornig and Neimheim have grown increasingly aware of their rising station. And this supernatural momentum is almost tangible. After all, the Ghost Knights of Lucan’s army couldn’t have stormed the northern coasts of the Wolfmark without darakhul warriors in their midst, and the ghouls of the Imperium can only expand so far without the aid of their surface-dwelling brethren. More than a mere political current, this is the movement of a society—an entire undead civilization—whose motivations are predominantly questionable, if not altogether evil. The psychic, supernatural, and metaphysical maelstrom this has wrought is one of epic proportions.

One result of this confluence is the ongoing emergence of new and otherwise long-dormant creatures of legend. There are entities who prefer to skulk furtively in the shadows, and there are those whose reputations precede them like the doom winds of a plague storm. The Blood Kingdom is the sum of its parts: the essence of every abominable horror that crawls within the lands of Morgau, Doresh, Krakovar, and the realms beneath. And they are ultimately defined by the denizens who defend (and expand) their shared borders.

We’re all familiar with the mythological trappings of the classic vampire lair: coffins draped in cobwebs in silent dungeons, creatures of the night prowling misty moorlands full of foreboding shadows. By its very nature, a nation full of vampires betrays some of the mystery and pageantry of the vampire myth (as defined in the current and previous editions of the game). Since vampires of the Blood Kingdom occupy a more “normal” place in society, it falls on the abnormal to take up their traditional roles. The emergence of Midgard’s abominations has often been preceded by calamitous events that herald their arrival, like storms, plagues, famines, or fires. How the abominations contained herein manifest themselves in your campaign is entirely up to you.

Rumors and Legends

Extensive travel through Midgard is bound to stir up some chatter about the Blood Kingdom and the peculiar horrors that haunt its tortured landscapes. Furthermore, passing through a border town or investigating local legends could reveal all sorts of details. Roll a d12 or choose from the following list of rumors to determine what kind of information characters might discover:

  1. Merchants traveling south from Bratislor along the Great Northern Road talk of a haunted mountain pass that calls lonely travelers to their dooms.
  2. Traders who ferry along the River Brocken speak of a foul wind that stirs off the western banks of the river near Lengrove.
  3. Pirates of the Nieder Straights whisper tales of a doomed ship that was savaged by a strange form of vampiric plague it picked up near Heiderbirg.
  4. Dozens of pale infants in the lands surrounding Morgau and Doresh are being born with an irregular, triangle-shaped birthmark—a blemish that resembles a map of Bratislor Pass.
  5. On the day preceding each full moonrise, the northern waters of the River Yoshtula run red with blood.
  6. Trees of the Siarka Swamp bleed a loathsome crimson sap.
  7. One in nineteen horses birthed in the Blood Kingdom are born pale and gaunt but harbor strange supernatural gifts.
  8. The sacking of Heiderbirg has angered the ancient Wolfmark gods; as a result, the skies above the marshes west of Heiderbirg are wracked by weird storms.
  9. A temple to Marena south of Bratislor trains its Red Sister devotees to supplicate themselves to strange earthen idols.
  10. The winged beasts and feral ghouls of the Cloudwall Mountains worship an elder wyvern god.
  11. Children who die under a new or full moon are cursed and must serve the Red Goddess and her minions in the afterlife.
  12. Earthquakes in the Great Necropolis have begun waking strange horrors from the shadowy depths of the earth…


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