Wednesday, September 22, 2021

From Out Of The Mists - James Ward's Tainted Lands & Ray Bradbury's Autumn People - Some Thoughts On Horror Campaigns In The Tainted Lands

 “This madness is no longer contained in the Tainted Lands. It spreads, filling the empty places around it with the dread of horror, polluting the world one small step at a time.”

"Upon the far slopes of the Turmberg Mountains, where the northern shores of Lake Vanhir lap the Plains of Cos lie the fog-enshrouded Tainted Lands. In the Days before Days hosts of dark hearted Val-Ehrakun settled here even before the sun and moon rose in the heavens. They shaped the earth, molding it with hysterical delusions. In their delirium they befouling the land, polluted the waters and staining the very air with madness. The land itself, filled with this poison became twisted, a living embodiment of the horror of nightmare. But as with all things, this too passed and the Tainted Lands became a wasteland of forgotten dreams and misspent sorcery. For eons it lay dormant, suffering under the yoke of time. But now, the shroud of its winter has given way and the Tainted Lands have come alive again. The earth groans and spits its necromantic horror in the air. Monsters, dread and foul rise from the muck of corruption and stalk the wastes. And the dreams of gods rise as nightmares from the blasted heath.

Nothing good is born in the mists of the Tainted Lands. Those who enter can survive there, some even thrive there, using the nightmare landscape to hide in. But as often as not the very magics that corrupt the lands consume them, they are twisted and driven mad, turning on all those and anything that stand before them. Still others fall into he oblivion and never rise again, their bones soaked into the earth and forgotten by history."

The September time is upon us, & my own thoughts turn back upon themselves of Autumn's past. And I begin to think of growing up with the E.C. comic book reprints which were as cheap as chips as my wife would say back in the 90's. E.C. comics got me into Ray Bradbury growing up. And it was Bradbury's EC paperback adaptation 'The Autumn People'   that finds its way into my hands every year. Now most would say that Bradbury's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' would be the better collection  & they would be right. 'The Autumn People'  is the modern spiritual successor to Something. And it has everything to do with James M. Ward's 'Tainted Lands' campaign setting  in my mind. 

According to the Autumn People Wiki entry; "

The stories are drawn from the comic books Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, Crime Suspense Stories and Shock Suspense Stories. The adaptation was not credited in the original publications but was probably by Al Feldstein, the editor of the books. The artists were such EC stalwarts as Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, George Evans, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen and Joe Orlando.

The cover painting by Frank Frazetta, himself an EC alumnus, is original to this collection." 

Right so what does this Ray Bradbury collection have to do with the 'Tainted Lands'?! A bit of everything & nothing. The everything is that as the mists of the Tainted Lands begin to touch our reality as Autumn season draws naught. Those that die by violence or black magick are drawn in by its influence & animated by its negative energies. The Tainted Lands is oft to the right of the negative material plane intersected by the plane of shadow with the Abyss on its horizon someplace. Those who die in the shadow of the tainted lands are marked by it forever more. If Ravenloft is the main heavy metal show. Then the tainted lands are the death metal after party  show for the adults. 
Murder, mayhem, etc. feed into the reality that washes through the 'Tainted Lands' and they call to the victims of such acts animating them as undead, mutants, murderers, & monsters. In other words the EC comics actions of the modern world call to the 'Tainted Lands' like rotten meat to Hell hounds. And these actions create the perfect fodder for portals into the Tainted Lands. When the Tainted Lands invade they bring Death & the undead with them! The portals open & horror begins. We'll be diving into where & how coming up. Bradbury's Autumn People touches on the true horror that the influence of these realms of horror bring to a game campaign. 

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