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Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Worm Apocalypse

As you can probably tell from my vadwyrms and wyrmanoids posts, I see some potential in a worm-focused setting, In addition to being the king of all monsters, purple worms and other giant worm-related creatures lend a more horrific feel; potentially Lovecraftian in scope, but even a more localized giant worm catastrophe. The horror, for me, is that the menace is mindless. There's no bargaining with giant, hungry worms, and if a couple small incursions turn out to be a hint of a worm apocalypse, where cities shall be tumbled and mankind becomes wormfood, there's a more intense feeling of doom than if some villain, like The Sorcerer of Wyrms or the world's smartest worm, is ultimately to blame. Maybe you can't just ward off the apocalypse by killing one guy... maybe you have to save the people you can and find a safe place to rebuild civilization.

You could almost do that with the undead, but because of necromancers and mastermind undead like vampires and liches, you don't really see mindless destruction as a major theme. It's always a LotR-like battle to save the world, with skeleton armies directed to swarm key locations. Haven't heard of anyone doing a campaign like "The dead walk again, but no one's to blame. Or maybe some necromancer caused it all, but he was the first victim."

And there's the additional invertebrate terror factor. Worms have no skeletons. They have no eyes, or shouldn't (some classic purple worm and remhoraz pictures really annoy me because they add eyes.) There's something just a little more horrifying about a faceless maw coming towards you.

That's why I came up with the wyrmanoids, "humanoid" monsters that have no faces and no language. If I were going to put together a worm campaign, the wyrmanoids would not be masterminds, or even a primary focus of the campaign. They are maybe a side effect, and a foreshadowing, and a foil. They would want the worms to eventually consume the surface, but that's not a master plot; they're just crazed cultists, getting in the way, and perhaps drawing attention to the fact that the worm apocalypse is a possibility.

There might be other side elements that fit thematically with a worm apocalypse. Like: normal-sized flesh-eating worms that cause corpses and skeletons to rise as mindless undead. I wouldn't want to overdo this, though. Not everything should be turned into worms. Most of the game, especially at the beginning, would be about other things, standard adventuring things. The worm apocalypse is just something to worry about that gets worse over time.


  1. But surely the giant space fish will save us?

  2. The version of this with the undead as the unstoppable enemy certainly would work well, even if it's rarely done in RPGs. The motion pictures have made killings off this many times in the form of the zombie apocalypse. I imagine that would work pretty well for a hopeless, taste-of-despair themed D&D game.

  3. "The dead walk again, but no one's to blame. Or maybe some necromancer caused it all, but he was the first victim."

    There is a french setting for the D20 system: Plagues.

  4. Worm Apocalypse.. sounds exactly to what happend to Arrakis in the Dune novels

  5. I used a worm theme in a recent arc of my campaign ... beginning by a village taken over by mind-controlling worms that went up the nose, introduced by a mad piper of the swamp with a worm-controlling flute. The party foolishly gave the flute to a temple of the god Ygg for "safekeeping" and the priest tried playing the flute, summoning a purple worm and leveling a section of the town. By then they were in another town looking for the fabled Purple Worm Graveyard, adventuring in Dyson Logos' Gullet of the Worm, and finding the underground worm-road from there to the Graveyard which turned out to be right beneath the town. Eventually they fled the enraged townspeople through a dimensional "wormhole" in the dungeon, carrying about twelve of the precious wormstooth tusks. I'd say they had a pretty wormy time.

  6. I trust that you've seen the 3e "Age of Worms" adventure path? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Worms (20 levels of mindless worm-like creatures culminating with giant undead worms trying to eat the world). Not that hard to back-translate to run with older editions.

  7. @porphyre77, Brandon: Nope, haven't seen either of those. I know very little about RPGs published in Europe, although I try to get the free French OSR materials for language practice. And I've never delved into the "adventure path" products. It's good to know there are some people out there exploiting catastrophes instead of boss battles.