Saturday, 17 January 2015

Nightmares with dreams of hope; what is Lycadican?

Lycadican is a role playing game with both fantasy and horror thematic elements. When I think about what this means my mind whispers to me "Nightmares with dreams of hope." The mood of Lycadican could very well be summed up by things I've experienced a lot of lately, sleeplessness, waking suddenly from nightmares with a sense of impending terror pierced by cherished moments of peace and a desperate hope.

I've had a lot of nightmares and a lot of dreams but for 20 years there are some that have stayed with me. No matter what I was doing or what I was aspiring to these ghosts have always possessed me.

Soucouyant
The first was a role playing game that brought the fantastic possibilities of magic and the supernatural to life. Not with conventional wizards that need to memorize spells and priests who pray to gods for 'blessings' that are essentially spells; but instead one where magic of all kinds and forms could exist in a way that is connected to the fabric of life. One that engages players to be the creative forces behind their own magical practices. Player characters should have their own arcane tomes and these they should covet greedily, passing their secrets on only to other characters they choose to mentor.

Loup Garou
The second was a way to infuse the fantasy I read with the superstition from my childhood, but not in a familiar way. It should be something new with echos of the familiar. It should be fantasy but feel somewhat like a story of the supernatural; fantasy but feel like horror. I wanted to create something new and someone once told me that my greatest strengths would be in my own experience.

At an early age my life was consumed by stories and a belief in the reality of the supernatural. In the dark of night my brothers and cousins told each other terrifying stories of evil spirits and tales of Caribbean monsters like the Soucouyant and Loup Garou. Our parents followed superstitious practices designed to ward off or keep these unholy forces at bay and we had what we believed were direct interactions with evil spirits. At times our home was besieged by the forces of darkness. We had dreams of evil portents and called holy men to say prayers and lay blessings to guard us. I still recall as vividly as if it were yesterday, being attacked by evil spirits on a number of occasions as a young child. Now we have a scientific word for that, sleep paralysis, but it was so terrifying that it has forever embedded itself into my consciousness.

But that was a long long time ago, a time that seems as much a disturbing dream you had a week ago than something you lived.

I grew up and forgot all about the magic of my past. I went to university and there was a logical/rational explanation for everything. But those ghosts were never exorcised; I studied Anthropology, Religious Studies and Archaeology. Then I got married, had kids and took a career in technology. Like a Soucouyant I shed my old skin and blazed a new trail of the rational and practical. I never told my children about evil spirits. I didn't play another role playing game for more than 20 years. I became a successful enterprise architect (IT super geek) and yearned to become an entrepreneur.

Corrupted Angel
Then a few months ago I stopped sleeping and when I did I dreamed terrible dreams. In one of those
dreams I saw the heavenly light of the world dim and the forces of darkness from my childhood spilled out from the recesses of my mind where they had stayed, locked away. The light fought to hold it back but it could not. The light had become just as corrupt as the darkness and in so had lost all moral authority to rebuke it. When I awoke the following thought came to mind:

"He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
— Friedrich NietzscheBeyond Good and Evil

This is Lycadican, a fantasy horror game that weaves magic and myth together; where the world is slipping into nightmare and the light has become the very thing it was fighting. You can no longer distinguish between good and evil which is unfortunate because evil will follow you home and strangle you in your sleep if you do not know how to ward it off.