Hey world builders!
Seeing as yesterday was Halloween, and Thursday will be Dia de los Muertos, I thought that it was the perfect time to delve into the darkness of myths and monsters centered around fears and unknowns! This fortnight I’m luckily joined by my some of my friends from the Tinker Tabletop crew, the awesome Jay and Zach!
Usually we get into creating our own myths at the end, but we’re going to flip it this week and start of with some great advice from Jay, especially when it comes to creating the monsters, mythical creatures or even Gods that populate your world’s mythos.
“Honestly, I think 90% of the creepiest inspiration I ever find is just biology. A blood worm It’s not actually something that we have to worry about as a parasite because it feeds off fish. But they have atacamite fangs. They have 4 fangs made from this type of copper chloride. So you have these 4 blue metallic fangs, protruding out of a worm-like creatures mouth.”
He also introduced me to a group of mites from the Trombiculidae family, which lays an egg in you when it bites you. (Thanks for the nightmares, Jay!) Biology definitely can be creepy.
Jay used the aesthetic of H.R. Giger’s Aliens as an example of combining human beings, creatures and biomechanics into something both familiar and unfamiliar, and as a result, truly terrifying.
But as Zach pointed out, the aesthetic of fear changes quite often with time. What terrified society once, isn’t necessarily what frightens it now.
“It’s interesting how traditional demonology represents the different creatures and entities. When we think about them today, we think about the guy with the horns. But if you take a look at historical texts like the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, or the Dictionnaire Infernal. What we see is very different to what we envision as devils and demons today.”
Illustration of Bael from the Dictionnaire Infernal
There’s two paths that you can travel when you’re creating horror. The first definitely draws ideas from nature and biology and manipulates them in ways that make them disturbing to us. The second route relies on keeping the reader or player in the dark and building the fear through the human reactions to ‘whatever’ it is.
Lovecraft was obviously a master of this. The explorative way that he builds fear in his stories spawned an entire subgenre of fiction.
As Zach says, the horror in Lovecraft is not about the monsters of the mythos as much as it’s about the human reactions to them.
“A lot of Lovecraft’s protagonists are men of science, men of learning, and eventually their intellectual curiosity is what leads to them being damned. It’s about the actual protagonist themselves, and what they go through. Them having to deal with the unfathomable, and how they persevere or… do not persevere through it.”
As Jay points out, Lovecraft is not necessarily jump out of your skin scary, it’s an ominous fear. A creeping dread. The key to Lovecraft’s fear is it’s all about man’s temptation and the consequences that it brings about.
Whichever dark path you decided to wander down when you include horror in your creations, it’s probably worth taking a little bit of advice from old H.P. himself,
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
That’s all for our special spooky edition!
Next fortnight, the podcast will be back with some special guests for a myth-creation wrap party!
In the mean time, don’t forget to tune in to the Tinker Tabletop guys on twitch!
Happy world building frens!