Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You should fear the night

One element I often see overlooked in fantasy games is the utter danger that can appear from nowhere in the dead of night and disappear completely at dawn. There are vampires sure, but most creatures are at best nocturnal and just tend not to be out during the day. One thing I try to stress in small ways in games is that everything changes when the sun goes down. When it does you may need to hole up some place until dawn breaks.

Simple rules like common undead (at least created by some means) take damage in the sunlight, or increasing the amount or types of magic that function at night, or creatures that only exist in this plane at night. A haunted castle may only appear at night, legion of the dead may flood out from the swamps and mill abound the woods. But the night is dangerous.

Often a lot of emphasis is put on terrain as a tactical consideration, but far less often is time a consideration.


  1. Very cool. I've been working on updating my outdoor random encounter tables and was considering creating one for day and one for night, with lots of dangerous and only seemingly dangerous things.

    I really like the idea of things that only exist at night.

  2. Very true!

    A lot of atmosphere can be conveyed by certain times. I ran a dungeon whose entrance only appeared at night - it gave a certain edge when the party realised they had to wait until night to get out...

    As for monsters, some judicious selection can do wonders - you don't have to limit yourself to undead either. Having giant bats hunting the poor in dilapidated towns works wonders for a party's sense of community.

    And so many people forget lighting conditions! It's less of an issue if you've got a magical sword or a daylight/continual light spell but then you've also got to think about the impact of that at night.

  3. 'The Halls of Tizun Thane' from White Dwarf #18 had one of the best reasons for the players to fear the night.

    "When the PCs retire to their room, the landlord locks them in. He explains that he has done this because, should they open their window, the Night Things will not be able to get beyond their room. Should the PCs be foolish enough to ignore the landlord’s advice, shortly after midnight they will see dark shapes in the woods. One of these nighttide dancers will come to the tavern and climb up to their open window."

    And it is *BAD* if they let that happen. :)