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🎨 Creative Non-Humanocentric Dark Fantasy Setting?

VoidDrifter

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I was just reading through some of my Ravenloft books when it struck me, once again, that... I actually don't like Ravenloft very much. I mean, I like the setting, but, at the same time, I feel underwhelmed by it as well. It's kind of the same problem I have with Planescape: it is a potentially great concept, but the execution just has so many - to me - nagging problems that I can't really enjoy it so much. In a nutshell, Ravenloft, to me, feels hamstrung by two critical blows: TSR's refusal to step too far away from the universal template that they applied all of their templates, and their obsession with portraying it as the Gothic Horror setting and ignoring the fundamental fantasy of D&D.

This, for many reasons, leaves me cold. Plus, I don't feel that D&D is really the best suited system for the kind of horror that Ravenloft wants to try and develop. It can work, but the mechanics just aren't quite a good fit. To me, Ravenloft feels like it would be much better off as the Castlevania Setting - the Castlevania series, Bloodstained, and their like, to me, feel much more like what an organic assemblage of D&D tropes and dark fantasy tropes would be.

Now, I could try and force Ravenloft into this round hole... but the amount of damage I'd do in the process would mean I'd basically be rewriting the entire setting from the ground up. So, I figured, why not skip the middleman? The problem is, I don't really have any concrete ideas about the potential setting in and of itself, I just think that there's potential here. Is there anyone out there who would be interested in discussing this idea and seeing if it can bear fruit?
 

ESkemp

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I ran a 4e campaign that started with the PCs going through a heavily redone Secret of Bone Hill and finding a strange document, spent most of the campaign hunting the various monstrous minions of this vampire lord across a gothic fantasy land, and finally going through a heavily redone Ravenloft to take out the vampire himself. Like you, I wanted it to feel like it actually fit into a D&D-style world -- something that was necessary if I wanted the players to be able to emphasize with the hapless townsfolk and beleaguered hunters. That's actually a big problem I've run into with stock Ravenloft: ignorant, xenophobic NPCs who are meant to evoke gothic horror just fail to establish connections with PCs. (Which isn't terrible if you want to run Warren Ellis' Castlevania where the townsfolk are just there to cause trouble for the PCs and then get slaughtered to showcase the monsters' capabilities, but for a long-term campaign I find it more satisfying if the players have reason to care.)

If that game's any indication, a more Castlevania-ish setting is both doable and viable. Still plenty gothic, still interesting horror elements. I'd actually take a look at Innistrad, from the Magic: The Gathering setting, for some ideas; it's still basically humanocentric, not at all a Tolkien melange with tricorn hats, but it's a good example of how to set your basic assumptions for a setting so that the gothic horror is more fantastic. For example, you probably don't want a strong, centralized government in the region, and there are ways to use powerful monsters or metaphysical forces to achieve that.
 

NobodyImportant

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Oh boy have you come to the right place. I’ve written over ten thousand words on the subject of Castlevania’s implied setting. It makes an excellent starting point for what you’re talking about. And yeah, I’ve never been satisfied with Ravenloft. It focuses a little too much on the Darklords and not enough on the peoples they’re darkly ruling over, you know?

First off: If we’re to build a non-humanocentric setting, we first require some nonhumans. Using Castlevania as a starting point, the core games already contain dhampirs and lycanthropes as player characters, so they’re in. Lizardmen, mermen and harpies fit in and aren’t too powerful. Mermen in particular are prominent enough to deserve a faction of their own. Non-wolf werecreatures also show up with some regularity - werebats and werecats most prominently - so working them in is possible, but including too many werecreatures may dilute things a bit. Maybe you could include one main lycanthrope race, with the various specific transformations as subraces.

Fairy creatures show up often enough to form their own faction, so you could include any race from their standard fare. Sprites, goblins, dryads, etcetera, although they should all be darker than the typical portrayal.

Moving into general gothic tropes, I’d like at least one out-and-out undead race. Revenants or embodied ghosts, either is good. Reanimated flesh constructs - smaller-scale than the ones that serve as Castlevania bosses - could also be fun. There should be at least one faction that embodies the mad scientist archetype in full. Tiefling equivalents would work, considering how prevalent demons tend to be, but out of this list they’re the first ones I’d cut for space.

Maybe fleamen, but that moves the barometer from ‘Castlevania inspired’ to ‘Castlevania the Game’. I’d be happy to help with either.
 

VoidDrifter

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Well I'll be! I wasn't expecting that sort of response! I'm so excited, I don't know where to begin! I'd love to talk about the possible races of the setting, if you're interested, NobodyImportant? I got a couple of thoughts in that direction myself.

I also have a few stray thoughts on Light vs. Dark as the "morality" of the setting, and some thought some thoughts on human adventurers vs. the relative power of humans; should I elaborate upon these?
 

NobodyImportant

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Trust me, I’m excited for this too. I’ve been tempted to start almost this exact thread more than once.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on races.
 

VoidDrifter

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So, one thing that struck me as I sat reflecting on Castlevania is that, whilst it started out as a pretty traditional "Human Hero Slays the Evil Monster Lord" heroic quest type affair, it actually moved away from in some subtle directions. As early as Castlevania III, you had the option to play characters with a distinctly "tainted" nature. Witches, cursed souls, Alucard the Dhampir, Cornell the werewolf, The Golem... and then there's the Lords of Shadow spin off continuity. Heck, I think it was even retconned at some point that the Belmont whip Vampire Killer was technically created through demonic artifice. And then there's Bloodstained, where the only savior humanity has in the face of the demonic threat is the Shardbinder - a human made inhuman by transfusions of demonic soul-crystal that is slowly consuming them from the inside out.

As a result... what if an aspect of this setting's theme is challenging the definition of "being human"? Pure humans are weak; they survive by numbers, diplomacy, and depending on the strong to guard them, but are themselves inferior to the nonhuman races. Human adventurers are able to surpass those limitations by embracing the Shadow, metaphysically surrendering part of their humanity and becoming partially monstrous themselves in order to have the strength to protect the pure.

This would mean that, class-wise, this is not a "realistic" setting. Your TSR style mundane martials? They're NPCs at best, cannon fodder at worst. All adventurers, regardless of race, have a bit of magic to them, and that is why they can stand and face against the powers of darkness - or light - at their worst.

Sound worthwhile to anyone?

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on races.
Alright... things are at a muddle, but... I'll just stream of conscious it.

Dhampirs are obvious fit, as you said. In fact... maybe there's a corruption aspect to the vampire lifecycle? Like, all vampires begin as dhampyrs, or vryloka or whatever, but it's embracing the darkness that unlocks the full blessings - and banes - that signify a "true" vampire?

Therianthropes/Shifters make sense, again, as you said. But, to move away from the humanocentrism; perhaps "shifters" in this world are humanoid beasts who have the power to assume a human-like guise, for sake of blending in? True therianthropes do exist, but these are Darkspawn parodies of the Shifting People, and regarded with just as much fear and hatred as them? I'm picturing Lupins, Ratfolk, maybe gnolls, and some kind of feline race for this "racial category", since we want to avoid getting a too-huge PC racial list.

Faery races definitely work. This might be a good chance to explore some of the weirder races. For example, I think that a dark fantasy setting has a lot of potential for the Braunchen (a repentant ex-soul-sucking fairy witch) and the Forlarren (a half-nymph half-fiend), if those two races are given some thought and care to be developed beyond their frankly limited default D&D fluff.

Fiendling races, representing fiends that have fought free of the Darkness, do have a potential niche, I think, but they are definitely the most expendable, as you said.

If I were to try and organize my spilling thoughts to create a knee-jerk PC race list, I think it'd look something like this...
* Humans
* Mortif: Humans infused with the essence of undeath, creating beings who walk the borders between life and undeath. In 3e, these were basically the Half-Undead's Tiefling analogue; in this game, I'd probably use this as a catch-all race for the Dhampir (Half-Vampire), Fetch (Half-Ghost), Ghedan (Half-Wight) and Ghul (Half-Ghoul), who are subraces.
* Malborn: Experiments in creating artificial life, leaving them with no real society of their own. This is your Living Construct race, divisible into Stitched (flesh golems), Clankers (clockwork droids) and Magen (alchemical homunculi).
* Lupins: Proud, cultured and passionate humanoid wolves with a Renaissance France touch - basically, Renardie Lupins from 3e. Swift-moving and strong, but also adept with weapons, favoring the longsword and pistol in equal measures.
* Ratfolk: A race that has thrived by secreting itself into the urban environment, occupying the forgotten places of the cities. They are sneaky, but also highly intelligent and empathic, with great skills in technology. Often, ratfolk make themselves of great benefice to their 'hosts' by cleaning, repairing and improving upon their surroundings.
* Spriggan: Green-skinned goblins distinguished by their crimson hair, fangs, claws and discolored "witch eye", spriggans are a race of hunters, trappers and foresters who are deceptively strong for their small size, and use their numbers, strength and affinity for witchcraft to protect themselves against the dangers of the wilderness.
* Xivort: Dark hued blue-black goblins, xivorts are frailer than their spriggan cousins, but more cunning and with a much more innate affinity for magic, mostly revolving around shadow magic and illusion. Whilst generally peaceable and reclusive, they have a strong honor code, and are dauntlessly loyal to their friends. A xivort never forgets a slight, nor a favor.
* Braunchen: Descended (or ascended, as the case may be) from soul-stealing faery nymphs, braunchen are gentle, ethereal and morose creatures, haunted by the sins of past transgressions and desperate to make amends. Whilst many settle for a humble life of good-doing through service, others find the courage to become adventurers and use their remaining faery magics to good use against the creatures of the darkness and the light.
* Forlarren: Long story short, based on the World Axis lore for nymphs, I think forlarrens as a blend of faery and fiend that is yet more moral than either of its progenitors can make a lot of sense. I went into considerable detail about my take on them, shunning the "child of rape" and "inherently insane" angles of old, over here: https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/lets-fix-forlarrens.849884/#post-22729764

...I can't think of any others. I'm sorry, my thoughts have just escaped me.
 

NobodyImportant

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Heck, I think it was even retconned at some point that the Belmont whip Vampire Killer was technically created through demonic artifice.
Yes. The Vampire Killer started out as an ordinary whip enhanced through alchemical processes, then was upgraded by incorporating a willing vampire’s soul.

As a result... what if an aspect of this setting's theme is challenging the definition of "being human"? Pure humans are weak; they survive by numbers, diplomacy, and depending on the strong to guard them, but are themselves inferior to the nonhuman races. Human adventurers are able to surpass those limitations by embracing the Shadow, metaphysically surrendering part of their humanity and becoming partially monstrous themselves in order to have the strength to protect the pure.
I really like this idea. Settings with a strong “thesis statement” like this are always fun.

Dhampirs are obvious fit, as you said. In fact... maybe there's a corruption aspect to the vampire lifecycle? Like, all vampires begin as dhampyrs, or vryloka or whatever, but it's embracing the darkness that unlocks the full blessings - and banes - that signify a "true" vampire?
Another good idea.

With your emphasis on becoming less human, I just had an idea; what if we did optional race-as-class? As in, if you’re a dhampir, you can advance by becoming a alchemist or a priest or a witch or something, but you can also advance by nurturing your vampiric power?

Therianthropes/Shifters make sense, again, as you said. But, to move away from the humanocentrism; perhaps "shifters" in this world are humanoid beasts who have the power to assume a human-like guise, for sake of blending in? True therianthropes do exist, but these are Darkspawn parodies of the Shifting People, and regarded with just as much fear and hatred as them? I'm picturing Lupins, Ratfolk, maybe gnolls, and some kind of feline race for this "racial category", since we want to avoid getting a too-huge PC racial list.
More good stuff. However, I misread this paragraph on first glance and thought you were talking about out-and-out beasts - maybe giant, magic ones - who can turn into humans (and an in-between shape, of course), and I think that’s even better. How cool, unique, and thematic would it be to feature wolf packs that turn into humans to fight evil humans who turn into wolves? Even has folkloric precedent, with the hounds of God and suchlike.

I think I’d replace gnolls with werebats or werespiders. You don’t tend to see a lot of hyenas in gothic literature.

* Spriggan: Green-skinned goblins distinguished by their crimson hair, fangs, claws and discolored "witch eye", spriggans are a race of hunters, trappers and foresters who are deceptively strong for their small size, and use their numbers, strength and affinity for witchcraft to protect themselves against the dangers of the wilderness.
* Xivort: Dark hued blue-black goblins, xivorts are frailer than their spriggan cousins, but more cunning and with a much more innate affinity for magic, mostly revolving around shadow magic and illusion. Whilst generally peaceable and reclusive, they have a strong honor code, and are dauntlessly loyal to their friends. A xivort never forgets a slight, nor a favor.
These definitely feel like subraces of “goblin” to me.

* Braunchen: Descended (or ascended, as the case may be) from soul-stealing faery nymphs, braunchen are gentle, ethereal and morose creatures, haunted by the sins of past transgressions and desperate to make amends. Whilst many settle for a humble life of good-doing through service, others find the courage to become adventurers and use their remaining faery magics to good use against the creatures of the darkness and the light.
This is a great idea for our standard-issue pixie-type. Their less-sated comrades will be regular enemies, I’m certain.

* Forlarren: Long story short, based on the World Axis lore for nymphs, I think forlarrens as a blend of faery and fiend that is yet more moral than either of its progenitors can make a lot of sense. I went into considerable detail about my take on them, shunning the "child of rape" and "inherently insane" angles of old, over here: https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/lets-fix-forlarrens.849884/#post-22729764
I just realized these have much more space to work with in a world without satyrs. Can’t really say too much more on them until we get to determining how demons and soulless fairies work in a little more detail.

...I can't think of any others. I'm sorry, my thoughts have just escaped me.
I still say that locathah-style gillmen are a must. If I were to cut this thing down to four races, I’d pick humans, dhampirs, lycanthropes, and gillmen. I really don’t want to leave them out.

You’re doing great so far, by the way.
 

VoidDrifter

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I really like this idea. Settings with a strong “thesis statement” like this are always fun.
Plus, it makes for an easier way to justify why this setting hasn't succumbed to the same "all non-humans are evil!" superstitious peasantry as in Ravenloft; humanity needs its adventurers and its nonhuman allies to really have a chance to survive. Heck, really, we could expand this; none of the "Souled Peoples" can stand against the Darkness alone, so they must work together to survive. Adventurers embrace the power in the shadow, but by doing so, they risk falling to become children of the Darkness as well?

Another good idea.

With your emphasis on becoming less human, I just had an idea; what if we did optional race-as-class? As in, if you’re a dhampir, you can advance by becoming a alchemist or a priest or a witch or something, but you can also advance by nurturing your vampiric power?
That could definitely work; maybe each of the non-human races has a racial (sub?)class? I always loved how 4e tried to make race matter more with racial paragon paths and utilities, so bringing that mechanic back gets two thumbs up from me.

More good stuff. However, I misread this paragraph on first glance and thought you were talking about out-and-out beasts - maybe giant, magic ones - who can turn into humans (and an in-between shape, of course), and I think that’s even better. How cool, unique, and thematic would it be to feature wolf packs that turn into humans to fight evil humans who turn into wolves? Even has folkloric precedent, with the hounds of God and suchlike.
Hmm... maybe. I'm not a huge fan of the Intelligent Gerbil trope, despite liking beastfolk, but.... I think we can discuss this and work with it.

I think I’d replace gnolls with werebats or werespiders. You don’t tend to see a lot of hyenas in gothic literature.
Well, if you look at their mythology, hyenas actually have a lot of associations with black magic, demons, carnal desires, and even vampirism. They're "African" now, but they did once inhabit Europe. Heck, they used a striped hyena as a werewolf in the film Nosferatu. I mean, I can see where you're coming from, but... I'd like to see if we can make them fit.

That said, I would be perfectly happy with adding aranea - a canonical playable race of sorcerous spiderweres from D&D's past - to the setting, because I always loved them.

Werebats, though, I think I'd avoid, because that kind of steps on the dhampir's toes.

These definitely feel like subraces of “goblin” to me.
I was thinking basically to avoid the "common goblin" motif entirely, and instead explore the subranches of the archetype. So, you've got Spriggans and Xivorts, but not the generic tribal goblin, if that makes sense? I mean, I'm open to discussing this.

This is a great idea for our standard-issue pixie-type. Their less-sated comrades will be regular enemies, I’m certain.
Well, they're portrayed more like elves physically, but we can always tweak that; wings could work well. And yeah, fanggens (or whatever they were called) and/or vilay could definitely work as enemy faeries. In fact... maybe Braunchens get a subrace based on if they are a "freshly converted" fanggen, or if they were born with a soul? The former may have more residual dark magic, but the latter may have better social skills and abilities?

I just realized these have much more space to work with in a world without satyrs. Can’t really say too much more on them until we get to determining how demons and soulless fairies work in a little more detail.
Oh, yeah. We can do that whenever you're ready?

Just to throw it out there, I really like 4th edition's general portrayal of the fey, and I think that should definitely be our starting ground. I'll quote the 4th edition MM3 lore for nymphs at the bottom of the post so we have a common reference of what the Feywild was like.

For fiends... I think that, in a setting like this, the Great Wheel's traditional divisions of demon and devil and daemon don't work. Since 5e has only a singular Fiend racial category, I think we should create our own take on fiends. That said... I really like a 3e 3rd party game called Infernum, which is set in a Hell that combines inspiration from Dante's Inferno and Doom. It features demons as the product of outcast angels coupling with "spawn" - failed prototype lifeforms - after being exiled to an abandoned proto-world in order to produce expendable slave-soldiers to use to war against their former brethren, only for the demons to rise up against their creators and destroy them. I liked how this setting portrayed the demons as evil, but involuntarily so; due to how they were made, demons lack the smooth union of spirit and flesh of earthly life-forms, and whilst this makes them tough, it also means they need regular infusions of iliaster - spiritual essence made manifest - to survive, dying quite horribly if they starve without. There's almost a sense of tragic to them, even though the book takes pains to point out that they have their situation far, far worse, and they do canonically have the ability to try and rise above their unearthly biology as best they can. It creates a small, simple array of daemonic races, gives them a deep culture, and I think it could easily work for incorporation to our setting, because it gives hellbreed a variety of reasons to interact with mortals for a variety of ways.

Plus, well, we were going to be doing Light Is Not Good to counterbalance Dark Is Not Evil, so I think this could be good to reinforce that.

I still say that locathah-style gillmen are a must. If I were to cut this thing down to four races, I’d pick humans, dhampirs, lycanthropes, and gillmen. I really don’t want to leave them out.
My only problem with this is that there's the traditional issue of amphiboids: how restricted to the water are they? If they can't survive outside of swamps or tropical jungles, or too far away from bodies of water, nobody's going to play them. If we can keep them out of the "must stay wet OR DIE!" trope that befell actual locathah and too many other aquatic races in D&D's past, I'm all for them.

Though, honestly, I will admit I prefer more of an amphibious lizardfolk or a zora-style "eerily beautiful in an elven fish way", in terms of appearance. Then again, I have a soft spot for shark beastfolk, so who am I kidding?

...That actually makes me wonder if we can bring the Half-Deepkin ("tainted" humans born of pairings between humans and either kuo-toa, reavers or sahuagin") from Ravenloft into the setting without bringing the Lovecraftian baggage of unfortunate implications with them.

You’re doing great so far, by the way.
Thanks. I like to make worlds, but I can just never take the idea from the starting seed to the finish line, you know? I really need help if I'm going to pull this off.

Now, the 4e Nymph lore.... oh! On an aside, what would you think of incorporating Kenzerco's cannibal fairies into this setting? They did it in Hackmaster, so it's not entirely without precedent...

Monster Manual 3 said:
Among the great Primal Spirits of the world, four sisters came into being in the world’s youth, more beautiful and more wild than any other spirit of nature. The sisters were the seasons—Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring—and they played a riotous game, chasing one another through the world even as the chaos of the Dawn War raged through the cosmos. In their play, they encountered brothers of the wind, who were shrouded in shimmering rain and fog and rich ocean scents. The children of the four seasons and these four wind brothers were the nymphs, fey beings who embody both their mothers’ ties to the seasons and their fathers’ fickle and tempestuous nature.

When the Dawn War came to a close, the spirits of the seasons faced a new task: maintaining the orderly progression of nature’s cycles in a new world liberated from divine meddling and primordial destruction. The nymphs withdrew at first into the Feywild, where they could live free and wild in harmony with nature, but such wild spirits were not content to live quietly forever. Their attention was drawn to the mortal creatures of the world, and they were amused. They laughed at how easily trifling words could sway mortal hearts to action, how mortals became distressed by a change of winds and favor, how profoundly they were affected by the nymphs’ wild beauty, how fervently they swore oaths of loyalty and devotion to win the nymphs’ favor. The nymphs played with mortals, especially mortal men, toying with their minds and hearts, and they were pleased by such diverting toys.

If the toys sometimes broke, what of it? The nymphs learned that breaking their toys could be fun—either turning mortals into brokenhearted husks of their former selves or simply shattering their feeble bodies when their capacity to amuse their mistresses ended. The nymphs were unconcerned: Life is abundant, a game in constant renewal. Only the fun of the game mattered to the nymphs, nothing else. Nothing at all.

LORE
Nature DC 23:
Of the fey, the nymphs are the wildest and most capricious. Their beauty—the splendor of raw, unbridled nature—is so sublime that even demigods and divine exarchs have sought the nymphs as brides.

Winter nymphs cling to the pragmatic view that the strongest survive. Spring nymphs see new life always budding forth to replace the old. Summer nymphs live in contemplative wonder of the mysteries of eternity. Autumn nymphs are prone to melancholy, for they see life in perpetual decline.

In sadness, some autumn nymphs cast off their forms and games and give themselves up to their wild nature. Wood nymphs are the first stage in the transformation of these despairing fey, but some go on to become dryads. These former nymphs retain an illusion of their previous selves, a veil of wind and rain they use to beguile mortals who are intent on harming the natural world. Fierce and violent in their sadness, these fallen nymphs protect the woodlands and other wild places, all but forgotten by their playful sisters.

ENCOUNTERS
Lusty satyrs and stately treants inhabit spring nymphs’ meadows, and gnomes and elves enjoy the playful nymphs’ sports. Winter nymphs hunt astride the backs of wolves, howling and sounding horns beneath the full moon. Although male humanoids seek nymphs as companions or wives, these unions normally end in heartbreak or anger when a mercurial nymph pledges her troth to another, swept away by a fancy.

SPRING NYMPH
She stands near the river in the meadow, a collar of colored petals encircling her smiling, perfect face. Her gown is adorned with roses and daisies, crocuses and daffodils, and apple and cherry blossoms. The warm spring breeze wafts thick with the fragrance of her attire.

In the sunshine, she beckons with a single finger. As an observer approaches, she laughs, turns, and skips away. Intrigued, the mortal follows.

SPRING NYMPH IN COMBAT
Myriad sensation is a spring nymph’s one desire. When her tantalizing mind games grow tiresome, a spring nymph longs for pleasure derived from the physical games mortals play. A spring nymph revels in longing, love, and struggle. She delights in watching mortals fight one another in her defense or for a promised token of her regard. The death of one means nothing to her; spring always brings new life. However, a spring nymph does make an effort to spare one of the combatants. She dominates the most comely or entertaining mortal. Outside combat, a spring nymph can make this dominance permanent through continual exposure to her mesmerizing scent.

AUTUMN NYMPH
In autumn, after the harvest, the wind turns cold, and old leaves press together. As they await their fall, they whisper stories about how they drank up storms in springtime, bathed in summer’s eternal light, bore fruit, and shed seeds. Such is the narrative of every living thing, and collecting the intimate details of these stories is an autumn nymph’s pleasure.

Autumn nymphs count the rings in the stumps of fallen trees and gather ancient stories from the wood. They trade in secrets, one for one, gleefully exchanging intricate facts of a mortal’s life for the life-dreams of a great old tree that has witnessed the triumphs and follies of hundreds of mortal years.

AUTUMN NYMPH IN COMBAT
She whispered to the male the secret he sought, but he refused to offer one of his own in trade. So the nymph told him other tales, gossips true and gossips false, nourishing the seeds of doubt and fear buried in the heart of every mortal. Though the full force of this dark revelation has passed, he still hears her whisper on every gust of wind and in the rustling of the leaves, warning him of events that might or might not come to pass, of false friends, and of untrue loves. She reminds him that happiness and beauty are fleeting.

He regrets ever speaking to the nymph, for her vengeance is as persistent as the wind. He longs once more for the comfortable security of ignorance.

WOOD NYMPH
Deep in the wilderness, a traveler spies a tree in the vague shape of a human female. Its branches stretch heavenward, entreating the sky. Sometimes, only an imprecise pattern on the bole or the grain is reminiscent of a female’s face. She looks trapped inside the wood, her eyes dull and haunted. Scholars say the spirit of a cursed maiden dwells inside the trunk of such a tree, doomed to live out her existence in isolation.

Adventurers, however, speak of lost autumn nymphs who have grown tired of their games or lost their hearts in futile love for mortals who escaped their clutches. These autumn nymphs became wood nymphs, caught midway in a transformation from nymph to tree.

WOOD NYMPH IN COMBAT
Woodcutters talk in fearful tones about the time they angered a wood nymph. The workers’ faces drain of color, and their eyes grow large. They say the forest’s trees came to life, beating at them with massive limbs while gouging eyes and skin. They tell how the nymph embraced one of them, and both then disappeared into a tree, never to reappear.

On winter nights, the woodcutters raise a toast to their comrade’s empty seat and tell each other that perhaps somewhere he survives, trapped in the wood with the lonely nymph.

WINTER NYMPH
In the remote hills and mountains where winter nymphs reside, they play a predatory game. Winter nymphs run wild in the wind, whooping and shouting, as they bring down the strongest quarry. The weak are of little concern to them; the nymphs have time to wait for calves to mature into worthy prizes. The heads of their kills decorate the frost-lined valleys that the nymphs call home.

WINTER NYMPH IN COMBAT
Winter nymphs run at the head of the Wild Hunt. They are dressed in buckskin, and the wind carries them. Their hair, composed of green and brown nettles, spreads out behind them as the wind speeds them toward their prey. Not just any quarry satisfies a winter nymph. Only the most cunning and worthy humanoid or beast entices these creatures. They are winter’s sharp scythes, chopping down old life to make room for new.

SUMMER NYMPH
Oldest and wisest of the seasons’ children, a summer nymph sees everything as it comes to pass. Her eyes are the color of the sun. She radiates warmth like that of summer days in childhood. She delights in an ancient game that spans all time and all worlds. From her home in the Feywild, she reaches into the world, the Shadowfell, the Astral Sea, and the Elemental Chaos. She plays with gods and dragons, and creatures from each world do her bidding. She is the child of the first living thing, and her memories are rooted deep in antiquity. The wind, her father, is at her disposal.

SUMMER NYMPH IN COMBAT
When King Radain the Bull laid siege to the lumber cities of Kort, the attackers stood amazed when a host of bears, wolves, and walking trees joined them against their enemies.

Miles away, in another time, villagers near the peaceful harbor of Anolath were befuddled when lightning, wind, flooding, and a horde of savage animals obliterated the riverside port.

It is not for the game pieces to know the player’s mind, and summer nymphs reveal neither their secrets nor their motivations. The elements, the beasts of the earth, and the land are theirs to command to any end they choose.
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
Validated User
Honestly I think those nymph descriptions make for more plausible "fiends" than the usual bizarre obsession with sins. Not Evil for Evil's sake but powerful, self centered, and callous, plus the perspective of immortality. Evil begins when you treat people as things.
 

DeathbyDoughnut

a.k.a. Mr. Meat Popcicle
Validated User
A fun dark fantasy game derived from D&D, created and written by a former D&D designer is Shadow of the Demon Lord. In this game faeries and genies tend to be the main prime movers and the mortal races like humans, halflings, and dwarves just happen to be the sad sacks that have to deal with a pre-apocalyptic, monster filled, points of light style world.

There are also a number of supplements that introduce many monstrous ancestries (races) and character paths (sort of like classes). Flesh of the Fallen has ghoul monstrous character options. There are also lycanthropes, revenants, vampires, devils, and faerie ancestries to choose from as well. Hell, even the elves in this game are mortal hating fey creatures.

Creating a nonhumanocentric setting would be as easy as picking and choosing the ancestries you want available to the PCs and making sure humans and other mortals are fearful cattle in a world of Monsters. Which is practically the base setting in the first place.
 
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