By Darren W. Pearce
Nocturne is a gothic horror / dark fantasy setting, the result of a resurrected Kickstarter (It’s aliiiiive!), an undertaking of massive proportions to save a book that reverted back to the writer (me) when the original publishers disappeared with the money.
Written for the backers, Nocturne is now a reality thanks to the help of Savage Mojo’s talented team.
The lands you’ll find in Nocturne are under the oppressive, malignant grip of the Nightfall, a terrible event that changed bad places into really bad places.
Key to the design of the setting are the struggles between opposing Icons, the lords and ladies of the lands, but where it’s often difficult to know who’s the hero and who’s the villain.
Let’s take a look at one land now….
Count Federmir, our bloodthirsty forgeborn, is the blood-soaked standard bearer for the book – indeed, he appears on the front cover! Federmir represents the Nightfall’s sense of the macabre, and acts as a direct, ever-present danger for your group of intrepid characters.
Federmir’s power is balanced in the land of Sombria by Von Halzinger, Federmir’s eternal foe and deadliest rival. However, Von Halzinger is a half-crazed zealot, just as blood-soaked as his nemesis. The land of Sombria is a dangerous place, defined by the struggle between these two Icons.
Here’s a quick taste of the very life-blood of Nocturne, the detailed descriptions of the lands and their Icons. They give you GMs all you need to run the full campaign which is in the book, or to strike out and design your own.
In the whole of Sombria, there’s only a single patch of real earth. This precious spot is surrounded by a high, spiked wall and guarded vigilantly by the last living things in the land. The town of Katal is the only true settlement in Sombria, though it’s not the desperate outpost you might expect. Residents here live well; the drudgeries of daily life have, in large part, been automated. Machines powered by oil, coal, and steam handle much of the hard labor and the town water pump is powerful enough to pull fresh (and real) water from the nearby River Tend and deliver it to every home.
Townsfolk live and work beside a variety of automata which do not appear corrupted by Count Federmir or the Nightfall. Many of these clockwork neighbors perform important tasks for the city, including guarding the walls.
Beyond the walls of Katal lies Eisenwald, a place of clockwork leaves, metal branches, and hollow trunks. The constant whirr of clockwork insects and the ticks of tiny clockwork animals flit through this place during the day.
By night the wood transforms. The air becomes cold, an artificial fog curls around the tree trunks, and eerie creaking sounds can be heard in the darkness. Throughout the forest, mechanical trees skitter on tiny clockwork roots taking new positions, obscuring paths, and confounding travelers.
Atop a hill rising out of Eisenwald, Castle Von Halzinger stands like a sentinel. The oil lamps within burn brightly at all hours, day and night, giving off a welcome glow in the foreboding darkness. The dimmer the glow, the further afield, and further into danger, you have wandered. The River Ticker divides Eisenwald in the east from Izvorul in the west. Clockwork fish of all shapes and sizes swim through beautiful, crystal clear oil and the bottom of the river is a perfect painted image of a river bed. On the left hand shore, a clockwork fisherman casts his line in the water, completing the strange tableau. This facsimile of a peaceful country scene belies the ugly truth: no life is safe west of the River.
In the far distance, a massive and imposing mountain looms, crowned by an iron castle, rusted to the color of blood. The foothills approaching the mountain give a somewhat disturbing reminder of this land’s nature; many foothills remain unfinished. Half painted rocks fail to disguise massive springs and gears as they churn along, breathing a half-life into this mechanical world. Anyone foolish enough to continue the trek up Mount Izvorul can’t claim he wasn’t warned.
Monsters and Men
While the lands are defined by the struggle between Icons, your heroes deal with the regular denizens for the most part. In a land like Sombria, you can imagine there’s nothing normal about the regular townsfolk. Take the settlement of Cog, for instance….
Denizens of Cog
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock goes the heart’s red clock!
3rd level troop [CONSTRUCT]
When you take that which is made of machine, and that which is made of flesh, combine them both in an unholy manner, what do you get? A denizen of Cog, a machine-being which shows remnants of its former life, with blood pumping through clear tubes into a heart that’s patched with scraps of leather and metal.
Pummeling Pistons +8 vs AC – 10 damage.
R: Steam Blast +7 vs PD (1d3 enemies in a group) – 7 damage.
Pick one of the following attacks for each denizen of Cog.
Stolen Strength +8 vs AC – 8 damage.
Natural Even Hit: Deal an additional 5 ongoing damage (save ends).
C: Stolen Arcana+7 vs MD (1d3 targets) – 6 damage.
Natural Even Miss: The next ally to attack the target does an additional 2 damage.
R: Stolen Divinity +8 vs PD – 9 damage, +2 damage for each non-mook ally engaged with the target (max +4 damage).
Nastier special – Dynamic Assimilation: [once per battle] When a nearby construct dies this creature gains a +1 bonus to attack and damage for the rest of battle.
Nastier special – Adaptive Combat: [one use by one denizen of cog per battle] When targeted by a spell, the denizen of cog rolls a save (11+). On a success it gains the ability to use that same spell as though it were a 3rd level caster with +7 to attack.
PD 13 HP 44
A Glimpse into the Darkness
Of course, I can only give you a tiny glimpse at the many and varied horrors which await in the lands under the Nightfall’s curse. For the Kickstarter backers though, the curse is lifted. Thanks to the selfless efforts of a whole team of dedicated and talented people, Nocturne is a reality.
If you are interested in dark or gothic fantasy, you’ll find Frankenstein’s monster with a vorpal sword at savagemojo.com or on the Savage Mojo page on DriveThruRPG.com