08 August 2023

I am the Darkmaster

I’m slowly working on a setting for a forthcoming Against the Darkmaster (VsD) campaign. The world is called Ukrasia and my focus will be on a northern island called Amarrah.

One thing that I decided for the setting is to have three “Darkmasters” from three different Ages of the world. I want these Darkmasters to be opposed to each other, in addition to the “free peoples.” However, only the most recent Darkmaster is active in the world at the time of the campaign (the others nonetheless have numerous followers and agents causing trouble).

Another goal that I have for the setting is that I want to make room in the world and provide rationales for the core VsD peoples – “kins” in VsD terminology (“races” in old-school parlance) – and monsters. Among the playable kins, in addition to the usual humans (and ersatz Dúnedain, “High Men”), halflings, dwarves, elves, and orcs, there are “wild folk” (human-ish woodland folk that resemble, I think, the Woses of Middle-earth) and “firbolgs” (giant-ish people with ram horns). The firbolgs are quite interesting, in that they suffer from a “Doom” because they turned against their Darkmaster in the dim past. In addition to the playable kins, there are “Dragonspawn” (humanoid dragon folk) that also need to be explained.

In order to make a place for the firbolgs – and the VsD versions of giants as well – I decided that the first Darkmaster will be a “High Jarl” of the Giants (once masters of the most powerful civilization in the world). This High Jarl also created the dragonspawn to serve as soldiers in the Giants’ war against the Elves. I thought that it would be cool to evoke Norse mythology and call the High Jarl “Ymir.” When I was looking at the entry on Ymir at Wikipedia, though, I noticed that an alternative name for Ymir is “Bláinn” – remarkably close to my first name, “Blain”!

The spirit of Gygax seized me, and I thought that it would be fun to use my three names (first, middle, and last) as the basis for all three of Ukrasia’s Darkmasters (just as many of the important characters’ names within the World of Greyhawk are plays on “Gygax,” including the mad wizard “Zagyg” of the original Castle Greyhawk).

This is only an initial draft, but below are my current ideas for the three Darkmasters of Ukrasia

The Chained Colossus of the Deep

High-Jarl of the Giants, Bláinn (Ymir), “The Master of Dragons.”
Bláinn has been chained to the bottom of the ocean for ~15,000 years. (According to legend, the Colossus’s writhing causes storms and great waves.)
Coveted Artifact: The Crystal Rods (five keys for the five chains that bind him to the ocean floor).
Lieutenants: Dragons, the “Dragon Kings” (human sorcerers?), Greater Giants.
Minions: Dragonspawn, Evil Men, Lesser Giants.
Spies: Snakes, Dragonlings (evil ‘pseudo-dragons’).

The Pale Queen of the Mists

Over-Queen of the Night, Everekka the Beautiful. (Name modified from “Everett.”)
Former leader of the genocidal “Night” (Star) Elves during the “Era of the Elves.”
Has been ensconced in her enchanted fastness on the Plane of Flux for ~ 3,700 years (since her defeat at the end of the Elvish Era).
Coveted Artifact: Unknown (if any).
Lieutenants: Night (Star) Elves and Unseelie. 
Minions: Dwergar, Orcs, Trolls.
Spies: Boggarts, Owls.

The Lich Autarch

Former Autarch of the Rylindar Imperium (the “High Man” empire), N’veldar the Arch-Lich. (Name modified from “Neufeld.”)
Greatly weakened after the theft of his staff and subsequent defeat at the end of the “First Age of Humanity” (the Age’s 2,550th year). 
(Only recently has the Autarch re-emerged, after the first millennium of the Second Age of Humanity.)
Coveted Artifact: The Blackfire Staff (drinks the souls of those slain; rumoured to be the only weapon that can truly slay N’veldar).
Lieutenants: Dark Knights, Dark Mages, and Vampires.
Minions: Evil Men, Ghouls, Undead Thralls.
Spies: Gorcrows, Ravens, Bats. 

The Autarch's primary servant on the Island of Amarrah
The Prince of Rooks (who dwells within the Black Rookery in the northeastern reach of the isle). 
The Prince and his lieutenants ride giant rooks.

So that’s it for now. I’ll post more about Ukrasia and Amarrah as my work progresses. 

[Credits: The top image is from the Against the Darkmaster core book. The picture of Ymir is from the musician Danheim's song of the same name. The final two pictures are from Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings movie.]


  1. I should mention some key inspirations for the three Darkmasters.
    The Chained Colossus of the Deep: "Joald" from Jack Vance's Lyonesse novels.
    The Pale Queen of the Mists: The "Court of Ardor" campaign setting by Terry Amthor.
    The Lich Autarch: "Elric of Melniboné" by Michael Moorcock (especially the Blackfire Staff). (The "Rylindar Imperium" is a kind of mix of late ["corrupted"] Númenor and Melniboné.)

  2. Ok! I have been very tempted by Against the Darkmaster for a while now. So this has my attention. Plus your inspirations are right up my alley, so it will be cool to see what you do with this.

    1. Thanks for your interest!
      In terms of the overall “ethos” of the setting, it is inspired pby J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Michael Moorcock’s “Corum” and “Elric” stories (perhaps more “Corum” than “Elric” – although the Blackfire Staff is very much a Stormbringer-esque artifact), and Jack Vance’s “Lyonesse” trilogy, with some elements of Terry Amthor’s “Shadow World” and “Ardor” FRPG settings.

    2. Yeah. I have been wanting to do something with this game for a while. So you are going to be my "commercial" for it. Plus I trust your opinion on this one.

  3. Just to let you know Norton is flagging you as a phishing site

    1. I've submitted a request at Norton to change this. Hopefully they'll realize that there's no "phishing" going on here.


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).