One of the most exciting aspects of the Dungeons & Dragons game is the fact that it can tell stories in countless ways. Since stories were being told long before D&D appeared on the scene, an enterprising dungeon master (DM) can draw inspiration from centuries-old literary genres when designing adventures. Gothic horror is one such genre, and this post will describe both the elements of Gothic horror stories and a method for employing them as tools for D&D adventure design.
Origins of Gothic Horror
The genre that we currently call Gothic horror developed in the 18th Century; it combined elements of horror literature with that of the Romantic Movement. Thus, gothic writers temper the emphasis horror places on fear and dread with the high emotion, primal sublimation and awe of nature’s power typically depicted in Romantic works. In short, Gothic is a genre of emotionally-charged tales of the supernatural, in which primal and/or evil forces battle against “civilized” forces represented by – or within – heroes.
Elements of Gothic Horror
By definition, a literary genre represents a group of works with traits in common; through listing those traits typically associated with Gothic horror, this post can provide a clear definition of the genre by example.
While there are no formal setting restrictions for Gothic tales, the Gothic literary tradition gravitated toward setting stories in mysterious, ancient places, places of spiritual significance, and isolated locales, often punctuated with astonishing natural beauty. By night, these same locations become dark, lonely, foreboding settings. Continue reading