Appendix V | Ara Fell (vampires and elves don’t mix)

Vampires and elves don’t go together.

That’s been my opinion since I tried Ravenloft back in the 90s and again in the 3e conversion and finally, last year, with Curse of Strahd for 5e.

Based on these shitty games, it’s easy to say that pointy ears and bloodsuckers don’t go well together.

But a few weeks ago, while searching for a traditional turn-based combat JRPG, I discovered Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition, a game that proved me otherwise. Ara Fell proves that, indeed, vampires and elves mix well together, but also that you have to be smart to do so.

Why, then, did I always find Ravenloft to be an aberration? What does Ara Fell have that Ravenloft lacks?

Well, for starters, irony and, also, a sense of humor. Ravenloft takes itself too seriously. It wants to be dark, scary, mature, and for others to take it seriously too. Like Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlene. Ravenloft wants to be serious but it has elves, so….

Anyway, the fundamental problem with Ravenloft is that you can’t mix heroic fantasy and horror. Heroic fantasy and horror are two opposite things. One tries to empower, the other to disempower (is this a real word?).

Ravenloft tries but fails to scare players because a) D&D characters are almost impossible to kill and b) the characters are the heroes and heroes always succeed.

D&D players know they are the heroes and will triumph. They can’t fear for their characters because they know their characters won’t die.

In The Lord of the Rings, from the very first pages, we know that Frodo and Aragorn will triumph, that Sauron and Saruman will be defeated. In At the Mountains of Madness, from beginning to end we have the uncertainty of whether the “heroes” will survive and win, and we know that there is a very high probability that they will not. In a crude way, that’s the difference between horror and heroic fantasy.

Ara Fell works because it doesn’t try to scare you. It doesn’t pretend to be a horror story, it’s heroic fantasy. There’s magic, ancient prophecies, a city in the sky, elves and, yes, vampires. But it never tries to be edgy, dark, too serious. The vampires of Ara Fell are not the vampires of the gothic novel, they are just one more of the races… sorry, I meant: of the ancestries that populate Fantasyland. It’s not the horror monster, it’s the fantasy monster.

Ravenloft is based on the old Christian morality trope of good versus evil, so it’s a dark game (in more ways than one), and it’s always at night. It ends up being very edgy. And not in an ironic way, to top it off.

Ara Fell doesn’t make this mistake. It’s a lighthearted looking world, colorful, it’s almost always daytime, but its morality is not black and white, it’s the more complex, the more human of the grayscale. Elves are not the Christian good and vampires are not the evil of Satan. And in between the two factions are humans, with their flaws and virtues, desires, ambitions and fears.

So it’s not that vampires and elves can’t mix, it’s that horror and heroic fantasy don’t mix well. You can be one or the other, but not both.

5 blogs I read this week

The past days, as usual, I spent some time navigating the blogosphere, and these are 5 of the most interesting, useful or fun entries I found, in no particular order.

DCC Crits by Dice Type

A house rule by Anne, from DIY & Dragons. I’ve been reading Anne’s blog for a while now, and she never fails to present interesting content and inspiring ideas, as well as deep-thought pieces, like this one, in which she designed a better way to implement critical hits in Dungeon Crawl Classics, which, as you probably know, uses not only the standard D&D polyhedral dice, but also the funky dice. Her article says:

“My suggestion is this. When a player rolls a d24 attack dice, they score a critical hit on a natural 20 and a natural 24. So they improve from a 1-in-20 chance to 1-in-12, or around 8%. When a player rolls a d30 attack dice, they crit on a natural 20, 24, or 30. Their chance increases to 1-in-10, or 10%.”

But you should read it because she explains why, it’s not a simple witticism.

Updated 17th Century Timeline

A very useful chronology for use with LotFP by Hexelis, from The Sword of Sorcery. It sets some LotFP adventures in an aproximate year, which is a great way to create a long-term campaign, but he also adds stuff from real-world History, which can be added to your games as needed. See an excerpt:

1600. Giordano Bruno is burned as a heretic.
English East India Company established.

1600-1603. The God that Crawls.

1603. Ieyasu rules Japan, moves capital to Edo (Tokyo).
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is first performed.

1605. Cervantes’s Don Quixote de la Mancha, the first modern novel.

Absolute Freedom

David McGrogan (Yoon-Suin), of Monsters and Manuals, is thinking about absolute freedom vs. contraints when it comes to creation. Do we need constraints? He says, yes we do. And his argument reminds me of a Daria’s episode in which she is assigned to write a story but her mind is blank and doesn’t know what to write about. He asks Mr. O’Neill for help and he says something like: “Well, why don’t you write a story taking people you know in real life and turning them into fictional characters?” Later, her mom adds: “write something honest, something that she’d like to see, rather than trying so hard to write something ‘meaningful’.”

In this episode, people help Daria get free from absolute freedom, they put limits to what she writes and ends up writing a good story, or at elast a satisfactory story for others to read.

Entheogens

Entheogens are what we most commonly know as psychedelic substances, but in a reverent or mystical context they should be called entheogens. And the blog Alone in the Labyrinth brings some plants that must be used under those terms. If your game need some mystical plant magick, this is gonna work great!

“Before we get down to the smoking and the snorting and the toad-licking, it must be understood that these entheogens are not meant for recreation: although they can be enjoyable, their use is sacred and therefore proscribed outside of ritual contexts. Since the PCs are exiles, they are no longer bound by taboos, and are free to ignore such restrictions.”

They also add linsk to their other stuff, which is interesting! Oh, and by the way, the author called me a degenerate.

A More Mythological Take On Necromancy & A New Necromanctic Ritual For Your Old School Campaigns

One can always trust needles of Swords & Stitchery to bring both a convoluted title and a thought-inspiring idea to the table.

“The modern view of the necromancer is something like this guy. An insane occult loner & black wizard psycho who lurks out in graveyards & creates undead hordes for his demonic masters! Well the mythological necromancer could be anything but this socially maladjusted demonic throw back wizard. The necromancer of the mythological antiquity had a far different form & vital function in the society of the Greeks & Romans from where I’ll be drawing some of this blog post conclusions.”

And he delivers! Although it’s not always easy to follow his writing. If he took the time to polish his entries, they would be among the best out there, but he would not be as prolific a blogger as is, those seweing machines won’t repair themselves!


Blogs are not a social media, but we can make compilations like this one to make blogs reach their audiece.