Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Some Random Thoughts on Vampires, Salem's Lot (1979),The Fiend Folio & Old School Campaigns

This morning in Connecticut is gray & nasty, I was thumbing through the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's Fiend Folio this morning especially the undead. So touring through internet I came across the break down of the Fiend Folio undead on Dragon's Foot in a thread. 
Here's the quick break down that Geoffrey McKinney did of the eleven monsters that are of the undead species  in the Fiend Folio:

coffer corpse
death knight
sheet ghoul
sheet phantom
skeleton warrior
son of Kyuss

If there was one film that brought home & burned in the evil infection nature of the undead on my nine year old brain then it was the Steven King 'Salem's Lot' made for television mini series that premiered on CBS. That artifact of television history burned its way into my brain like not too many other television mini series.Well, maybe The Thorn Birds or JR's Shooting on Dallas. But I digress.

So what does this have to do with the Fiend Folio? Well, besides the themes of small town corruption, evil, the complete stripping of every vestige of Americana from the town, loss of innocence, the mini series working as a homage to the classic monster movies of a bygone era & it being one of Tobe Hooper's best films?
"Directed by Tobe Hooper and starring David Soul and James Mason, the plot revolves around a writer returning to his hometown and discovers the citizens are turning into vampires. It combines elements of both the vampire film and haunted house subgenres."
Its the way that the evil of the Marston house attracts houses the vampire nest. There is a sense that evil attracts evil theme in the film that pervades throughout. Salem's Lot presented vampires as an evil to be vanquished, with no gray areas given. These undead monsters are mockeries of their living selves. This is one of the ways that I've always seen undead monsters from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. An infection rotting away towns, city states, & even isolated communities often working with other undead creatures to further some alien agenda.

The nature of the undead is attracted to the sink of evil that is presented by each urban, village or countryside haunted house. These locations seem to draw & reign in these types of horrors.This approach works well with death knights, apparitions,
huecuva,etc.  This might also  be especially true of the vampires of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. Of course all of this would be soon replaced by the Ravenloft setting. This took the sink of evil idea to new heights.

I've always used vampires in conjunction with many of the top undead from the Fiend Folio. Vampires make excellent co rulers or domain level threats because their abilities especially from the Monster Manual :

  • Vampires live in two planes at once - the material and the negative material.
  • Vampires have an 18/76 strength.
  • If it hits an enemy, the enemy loses two levels.

That purple, rat-like faced bastard from Salem's Lot made quite the impression on my nine year old brain making monsters working in adventure & dungeon locations a theme I've used for years. James Mishler's Vampires of the Olden Lands plugs right into this very OSR setting trope.

Jack Shear's Tales of the Grotesque & Dungeonsque series is a great addition to a DM's arsenal looking to beef up and pull out all of the stops to taking their games into the realms of the Gothic that Salem's Lot draws so heavily from. In fact I'd say that Mr.Shear's material is some of the best out there to add in set dressing, additional powers and abilities and breath new life into undead horrors and add in new life to a Gothic D&D setting. The beauty of the Fiend Folio in my humble opinion is the flexiblity & weirdness of the book. How it easily adapts to all different styles of play & how with a bit of creativity it can be molded to what the DM wants it to do.

Remember folks keep it weird!

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