First of all, here's the table of contents (sans the page numbers, because they're very much in flux).
That should give you an idea of the flow of information, as well as how much different the stand-alone is going to be from the scaffold! Also, I've tried to keep as much flavour as possible in the headings, but I am unsure about that. Do any of them read wrong to you? Let me know!
Next, I thought I'd show you an exert I've been working on. Here are the sections: The Game, The Setting, Genre & Themes, and Touchstones, all from the first chapter "The Basics".
All Shall Fade is a game about a group of condemned criminals delving into the hellish Dungeon to carve out a new home for humanity. There are desperate battles in darkness, chases through fetid tunnels, bloody retreats, infernal bargains, brief moments of reflection and respite, and ultimately lonely death in the bowels of the world.
We play to find out if the remnant of humanity can survive, and if our criminals will hand their hard-won victories over to their jailers, or if they’ll seize this new world for themselves.
The game takes place in the nightmarish Dungeon, deep below the surface empires, now devastated and rotting after the sky fell. The Dungeon is arcane, impossible, ever shifting, and sentient. Imagine if you could walk the hallways of your worst nightmares. This gothic, cosmic horror is draped over the Swords & Sandals aesthetic of Ancient Rome and Carthage. The gladius, the javelin. Iron shields and breastplates. Sandals, trudging through blood-soaked streets.
Though the Dungeon resembles our world, it is more a reflection of our minds, in the most visceral sense. Walls of sandstone give way to dripping corridors of gristle and grey matter. Physical tendrils of fear reach out from daunting chasms. Oily smoke lies to the senses, corporeal and ephemeral at once. The Dungeon is watching you, and it is welcoming of those who embrace it…and devastating to those who seek to warp it closer to reality.
You’re in a cramped, blood-drenched, sandstone catacomb of infinite size, huddled together with the refugees of a dying world.
The point of this is to force our protagonists—our criminals—to face the worst place imaginable and seek to make what they can of it. Do they embrace the madness? Do they miss the old world, where they kneeled in chains? Or do they favour the Dungeon, where they stand as our salvation?
Genre & Themes
All Shall Fade is a grim fantasy, gothic/cosmic horror, Swords & Sandals roleplaying game. Now, that’s quite a bit to unpack, so let’s go one-by-one:
Grim Fantasy. All Shall Fade is ultimately about hope, hopelessness, and the dregs of society. Fantastic things happen, but they happen to the “worst” of humanity—you—in the worst place imaginable. We, at the table, should marvel at what we see. Our characters should quake in fear, or plot terrible deeds to perform in restitution.
Gothic/Cosmic Horror. All Shall Fade plays with Romanticism, with the fear of the unknown, with places and peoples of great importance, and terrible destinies. It also plays with misanthropy, a preoccupation with the visceral and the grotesque, a focus on the alien and the twisted.
Swords & Sandals. Think Ancient Rome and Carthage in the Iron Age (or even in the late Bronze Age) rather than Medieval Europe during the dark ages. Think leather skirts and breastplates, rather than chainmail and half-plate armour. Think the gladius and javelin, rather than the zweihander and crossbow. Think sandals, running through sandy, marble-lined streets, covered over with darkness and an eldritch sky…
Whilst the themes of the game are concrete, the exact details are left up to you. We’ve given you some specific monsters, locations and factions you might want to use in your own campaign, but they are painted in broad strokes. There is a lot of room for you and your group to fill in the gaps.
This is on purpose.
Make sure, after you’ve read this book and before you play with your group, that you set expectations for everyone at your table. You need not create the setting from the beginning—you’ll develop it through play with the tools in this book and the choices your characters make—but you want to have everyone on the same page for where it might go (and where it won’t).
When you’re pitching this game to your friends, here are some media touchstones you can point to and say, “This is what All Shall Fade is like.”
Videogames. Darkest Dungeon, Diablo 1 & 2, Dark Souls/Bloodborne.
Film. The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), the Mines of Moria sequence from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).
Visual Art. The artwork of Zdzisław Beksiński and vergvoktre.
That's all for today! I've still working on everything, full steam ahead, so if you've got any questions or comments, this stuff is right in the forefront of my brain. Ask away!