For today’s post, I’m going to step away from the rules and write a little about some of the stories that are the inspiration for Nevermore. Of course, stories of American and even Victorian Gothic Horror are the game’s foundation. So today, I offer a list of a few of these tales that are certain to inspire fear and dread as well as an examination of how a reflection of them might appear in your game.
The same writers of Gothic fiction that exist in our world exist in the world of Nevermore. The Esoteric Order of the Illuminous believes them to be prophets of a sort. They have managed to traverse into the realms of darkness and perhaps predict forms in which the aethyros might manifest through their stories. Or perhaps it is more that by putting their own misery and desperation to the page, they cause them to manifest. This is not to say that an aethyros will appear that directly reflects one of these stories, but rather that it may appear in a myriad of different forms.
A warning before reading further. Each of these contains a short summary of the story mentioned and so may spoil it for future reading. Continue at your own peril.
The Yellow Wallpaper
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
In this melancholy tale, a woman is persuaded by her husband to rest for a time to recover from a recent nervous breakdown. They retire to a house in the country, which she finds to be wholly disturbing. It is old and dilapidated, and the woman fears that it might be haunted.
Permitted to do almost nothing and trapped in her room for endless hours and days, she becomes obsessed with the intricate yellow wallpaper. She begins to see shapes and people with its patterns, eventually discerning a woman trapped behind bars and trying to escape.
In time, she succumbs to a kind of madness, endlessly creeping around the room, following the pattern of the wallpaper. Is this a projection of her own feelings of entrapment, or is there something more sinister afoot?
The Yellow Wallpaper provides ample fodder for a story to be told in Nevermore. Perhaps the protagonists learn of an old home where a succession of people have gone missing after becoming entranced by the curious wallpaper. Maybe, over the years, a succession of people have actually become trapped within the yellow wallpaper, and the protagonists must help them resolve personal traumas so that they may be free.
The Black Cat or The Tell-Tale Heart
by Edgar Allen Poe
Both of these are stories told by an unreliable narrator who commits murder and endeavors to conceal the crime by hiding their victim’s remains. In each, something gives away the hidden crime. In the former, a much-maligned cat is accidentally sealed behind a brick wall with the victim, giving away its presence at a most inopportune time. In the second, the narrator believes they can hear the beating of their victim’s heart which drives them to madness.
Such macabre tales can be translated into Nevermore tales in many ways. Of course, the eventual discovery of the hidden corpses is likely a revelatory moment, but there may be much more that leads to this. Perhaps instead of one victim, there are many hidden within a home or estate. The ghosts of the entombed might haunt the place and provide clues to their whereabouts. Maybe the perpetrator of the crimes has buried themselves along with their victims behind a wall of brick. Such a horror might have some degree of control over the other ghosts or become one of the risen dead.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
by Washington Irving
This tale probably needs no introduction as it has been told and retold in so many forms of media. A young school teacher becomes embroiled in a tangled romance and comes afoul of the Headless Horseman — a terrifying haunt that is believed to be endlessly in search of its lost head.
The original is actually somewhat comical, and the whole affair is likely the result of a terrible prank by a jealous suitor. However, many of the retellings assume the horseman to be real, and the endings are far more horrific.
There is much inspiration to be had here when creating stories for Nevermore. In fact, I found one of the early paragraphs of Sleepy Hollow to be very inspirational when I was originally seeking to describe the concept of an aethyros. You can find it here on the Nepenthe Games home page: https://nepenthegames.com/
But back to the stories…. A creature as foul and dangerous as the Headless Horseman could prove quite an adversary for a Nevermore tale. But, a simple defeat might not be enough. Perhaps there is some ancient wrong that must be set right. In the case of this story, perhaps the long lost head must be reunited with its body in a proper burial. Or, it might be that the haunt seeks something else that belonged to them—a family heirloom or a favorite weapon—possibly something stolen.
Until Next Time
What are your favorite tales of Gothic Horror and how could they be translated to a story in Nevermore? I’ll be back again with more thoughts on this subject, but in the meantime, I would love to hear from you.