Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #112 - RPG Blog Carnival - The Darkness Within


Because I seldom come at these blog topics from the obvious angle, and because there is an increasing amount of fiction (and therefore games) derived from exploring a person's headspace, let's take a look at the darkness of the mind and soul....

Dreams & Nightmares

Journeying into a person's dreams, or even the world of dreams itself, is hardly a new idea. These kinds of the adventures are not typical but they can certainly be fantastic. As you no doubt know, dreams can be very strange. More than that though dreams can be dark. Exploring a person's nightmares often means coming face to face with their worst fears.

The possibilities here are endless. Perhaps the characters have to enter the dreams of a local lord and rescue him from his nightmares. Once inside they have to navigate the twisted nightmare realm and convince the lord that they have the power to awake from these dreams.

Likewise character's may be able to enter the world of dreams, a strange parallel to our own world into which people sometimes dream themselves during sleep. The dream world is perhaps safer than a specific person's dreams, and yet also more dangerous. While the character's will not be at the mercy of the dreamer's mind they will still be in a realm where thoughts and dreams can impact the world around them. Worse they may come into conflict with dreams that have become sentient, or other dream walkers who have more control.

The Landscape of the Mind

Much like entering a person's dreams entering their mind can allow you to experience aspects of their personality that can be personified as individuals. The adventures one can have inside another's mind can allow them to see that person's personality rendered real. A person's dark side may be manifest as a terrible monster, or more insidiously it may be that an evil person's mind if a hostile environment that attacks all outsiders.

Exploration of this kind can allow you as GM to explore aspects of an NPC in ways that force the players to re-evaluate their relationship with the NPC. The PCs may learn that deep within the evil sorcerer is a scared and abused boy whose heart turned to darkness because of his traumatic childhood. Or they may learn that within the peaceful monk that runs the orphanage is a sadistic soul that drives the monk's fearful temper or strange behaviour toward certain people.

The Hyde Factor

Naturally when exploring themes and stories around people's dark sides one need not delve into the character's soul or dreams. Instead of internalizing the narrative one can externalize the darkness through magic curse, science mishap, or madness. This is the Jekyll and Hyde story and is well known. It's fame makes this no less interesting, and indeed can act as the instigator for an adventure that will lead to dream delving or mind walking.

That monk's dark side may be causing him to act out, perhaps even channeling his Qi to transform him into an Oni during the dark of night. The characters then need to dive into the monk's mind (during the day) to confront the darkness in the monk's soul and defeat the oni.

How do you use the darkness within in your games? Do you explore the dark sides of your PCs and NPCs at all?