Jack W. Shear of the Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque blog just released a free 100+ page PDF entitled Tales of the Grotesque and
Dungeonesque: A Gothic Fantasy Compendium for Old-School Fantasy Role-Playing Games. Jack says:
Here’s what you get in the compendium: an introduction to Gothic Fantasy, my home campaign setting, three new classes compatible with old-school fantasy games, my house rules, 44 monsters, 26 spells, 7 magic items, and more random tables that I cared to count. Much of this has yet to see the light of day on my blog.
Believe it or not, there was actually publisher interest in some of this material. However, I’ve decided to release this into the wilds for free under a Creative Commons license in the spirit of DIY gaming. The best gaming material I’ve seen since I started blogging has been freely available on OSR blogs; consider this my way of saying “thank you” for all the inspiration and good gaming you’ve all given me.
I’ve made a quick pass through this volume and am impressed by what I see. It many ways it reminds me of the first Arduin Grimoire. It’s an interesting eclectic collection of material on a homebrew fantasy world. In this case, the “World Between” which is heavily influenced by early gothic literature. If you aren’t familiar with gothic literature, Jack talks quite a bit about it in the introduction. Perhaps the most interesting part of it from a “do I want to download this” point of view is this paragraph as it explains the feel of a gothic world:
Gothic literature is filthy with the following generic conventions: an imperiled heroine whose life and/or virginity is often at stake, a Catholic setting (generally either Spain or Italy in the early Gothic novels); a focus on terror (psychological fear) or horror (disgust) or both as affect; a long-buried secret from the past that can no longer be repressed; monstrosity (whether human or inhuman) or villainy (often a patriarchal figure of power); violence and sexuality that passes beyond the border of the socially acceptable; incest; doubling (doppelgangers, mistaken identities, etc.); a decrepit castle, monastery, fortress, dungeon, or other medieval structure as part of the setting; the Inquisition and the misuse of religious authority; specters, ghosts, or phantasmal visions (remnants of the past that cannot be repressed); mysterious veiled women; fragmentary narratives (framed narrative, missing text, etc.); enclosure, premature burial, and imprisonment.
Jack has taken this and translated it to a polytheistic (and definitely “old school”) fantasy setting: the World Between. I find it fascinating and well worth the download. The rules are based on Labyrinth Lord, but could easily be adapted to any set of old school rules. You can download a free copy from Google Docs.