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Tabletop Game / Grim Hollow

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Welcome to Etharis. We'll see if you survive...

Grim Hollow is a setting for Dungeons & Dragons based around themes of Gothic Horror and Dark Fantasy. The setting is published by the third party company Ghostfire Gaming and funded through kickstarter. The first sourcebook, a guide to the world of Etharis containing rules for foul curses and vile transformations, was funded through kickstarter in 2019. After the immense success of the first kickstarter, one for a Player's Guide containing new subclasses, magic items and spells, was started and funded in 2020. A third kickstarter was funded in 2021, this time for a Monster Grimoire containing monsters, treasure tables and rules for designing your own gothic monsters.

The world of Etharis is a world besieged by darkness. From the windswept plains of Castinella, to the frozen reaches of Valika, monsters roam freely and humanity is their prey. Yet despite this, it is humanity that often pose the greatest threat. Religious zealots chase down and burn those they deem heretical, so-called great empires battle eachother for dominance and sometimes literally bloodsucking aristocrats exploit their people for their own gain.


Then what of the gods? The great guardians of virtue and justice? They are long gone, slain in their heavenly wars. Now, only their servants remain to watch over the world, stretched to their limits, though some would rather take advantage of the spreading chaos...

Tropes that you may face in Etharis

  • Abusive Parents Gormadraug was this to the the Primordials, forcing them to fight to death only to have them resurrected so they could do it again.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Brass Boy is a construct built for a king on commission. After witnessing its creator murdered by the king, it dedicated itself to spread death.
  • The Alcatraz: Cold Iron Keep, in Kandar, started out as the castle of an evil mage, who was eventually defeated by adventurers and the keep was later converted to a prison. Among others, it contains a vampire frost giant, a mage who turned herself into basically Medusa and Gorm, a man who burns permanently with Coldfire. His situation has understandably driven him quite mad, and he now considers himself a herald of the Great Wyrm who's destined to destroy the world.
  • Apocalypse Cult: The Celestial Gate of Bürach have grown in power to almost rival the state religion, and believe that the world is too corrupt to ever be saved without burning it all down and start anew. They might be right. The Druids of Thrull invert this by actively trying to postpone the apocalypse, albeit by human sacrifice.
    • The Eldritch Domain for Clerics is themed around this, becoming the doomspeaking prophet of some Eldritch Abomination - you even get to make apocalyptic prophecies as your Channel Divinity.
  • Animalistic Abomination: The Chiropteran Behemoth, a gigantic vampiric bat loyal to the lord of Soma said to be as powerful as some dragons.
  • Angelic Transformation: One of the transformations in the campaign guide, the Seraph. While the Seraph-to-be gains great power to smite the evil and protect the innocent, they also get a target on their back for every evil creature for miles.
  • Anti-Magical Faction: The Arcanist Inquisition operate in the Castinellan Provinces to root out practitioners of magic, since arcane magic is considered a heresy there. Many accusations are awfully convenient for the Provinces...
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The vampires of Soma are utter bastards. To give an example, in a short tale from the campaign guide, a mayor awaits permission to build a road through his town that would turn it into a trading hub, and expects to have to pay in literal blood. He is pleasantly surprised when they grant it without asking payment... until a few months later, when his daughter is invited to a ball... What's worse is that Transhuman Treachery does not apply in this setting; the aristocrats really are just that selfish and cruel, vampire curse or no.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: The "Way of Pride" subclass for monks literally embraces this trope as their founding ideology, encouraging disciples to embrace their confidence and ego as a way to hone, refine and perfect their sense of selves.
  • Artificial Human: Wechselkinder are golems in the shape of children created by The Fair Folk and used to cover it up when the fey abduct a human child to become a changeling. They suffer double angst by being both a self-aware construct and permanently trapped in a physically child-like body. They have managed to start making a niche for themselves as nurses and doctor's assistants since the outbreak of the Weeping Pox, due to their inherent immunity to disease, but are (justifiably) skeptical of humanity remaining grateful afterwards.
  • Badass Boast: The vampire lords of Soma once sent an army of their most powerful (read:undead) soldiers to lay siege to the Order of Dawn to wipe them out once and for all. The Order broke the siege, and the Grand Duke received a letter from the Order:
    Send more vampires.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Most of the sub-classes offered in the Player's Guide revolve around less than heroic abilities - from the Blood Magic fueled Sangromancer, Circle Of Blood, and First Vampire Patron, to the eldritch and unnatural Eldritch Domain, Circle Of Mutation, and Parasite Patron - but whether or not your character uses them for evil is up to you and your DM. Not that doing so will be easy mind you...
  • Baleful Polymorph: The Campaign Guide offers eight different curses that ultimately result in rather horrendous versions of this, hence why curses are explicitly always evil even in this setting: The Curse of Ravenous Hunger turns the victim into a Bloated Gastromorph; The Curse of Lost Sentiment turns the victim into a Dream Whisperer; The Curse of Insatiable Greed creates Verminous Abominations; The Curse of Uncontrollable Wrath turns victims into Avatars of Slaughter; The Curse of Conceited Obsession turns the victim into a Weeping Willow; The Curse of Damned Aging makes Body Snatchers; The Curse of Foul Blight turns the poor soul into a Plague Carrion and the Curse of Ill-Fated Fortune turns the victim into a Herald of Calamity. It's implied the student who doesn't come back on a class in the Ravencourt Sanctuary is turned into the sea dragons that guard it.
  • Bargain with Heaven: Celestial Warlocks can exist here as in every other setting. The knights of the Charneault Kingdom also make covenants with nature spirits to gain power so that they can better protect the smallfolk and nature.
  • Benevolent Conspiracy: At the height of Bürach's civil war, people from each of the four provinces came together to take out the mad emperor. A priestess named Talana from Abendland opened the gates to the palace for the assassins, mages from Nordenland prepared means to cure the gods' madness, sages from Rauland forged weapons that could be smuggled into the palace and the retired Unterland general Dimitri Speir orchestrated the whole thing. Nobody was especially upset when they pulled it off.
  • Big Eater: Ogresh are such big eaters that they invariably live far away from other members of their race - more than one of them in an area could eat a whole village's crops.
  • Big Fun: The Ogresh are a massively built race, averaging between 200 and 300 pounds in their youthful "mobile" life stage and between 700 and 800 pounds in their adult "sedentary" stage. However, they are also incredibly charismatic and naturally adept in the social arena.
  • Black Knight: The two subclasses offered to The Paladin in Etharis are the "Oath of Pestilence", which embraces sickness and decay as both natural parts of life and as a tool with which to winnow the weak from the strong, and the "Oath of Zeal", which embraces the paladin's hatred as holy and uses it to refine their offensive abilities.
  • Blood Magic: The Sangromancer subclass for the Wizard and the Circle of Blood Druid both deal in this, as does a Warlock who selects "The First Vampire" as their patron. Vampire player characters can select an innate mastery over sangromantic spells as one of their transformation bonuses.
  • The Caligula: Emperor Leopold I, who was so bad he actually drove the surviving gods insane through the various regalia granted by them. Even after his death, his soul still lives on as the Beast, one of the major Big Bads of the setting.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: Vampires have this weakness - being in running water will both cause acid damage, and a Glamour Failure.
  • Celestial Paragons and Archangels: With the gods dead, it fell to their greatest servants to pick up the slack. To varying degrees of success. Their number include Miklas, Arch Seraph of Mercy; Empyreus, Arch Seraph of Valor; Zabriel, Arch Seraph of Truth; Solyma, Arch Seraph of Justice; Morael, arch seraph of Sacrifice and Devotion and Aphaeleon, Arch Seraph of Temperance.
  • Changeling Tale: Etharis' Fey have been known to kidnap children from their beds, taking them back to their realm and leaving enchanted constructs disguised as children behind. The kidnapped kids are changed into Fey themselves, while the constructs eventually become the Weschelkind - living constructs perpetually stuck in childhood, wandering a world that has no place for them.
  • Chest Burster: The Parasite Patron let's you become one. Starting at 14th level, if you die, a parasite bursts out of your ribcage, and can infect someone else, letting you steal their body to replace your old one.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Emperor Aratron II of the Bürach Empire is only 12 years old and little more than a puppet of the Hearthkeeper Church. Petitioners will find that he is haughty and sullen, but interested in any news of the outside world, as he is quite sheltered.
  • City-State: Morencia and Liesech. In a rather realistic twist, these states are in a rather precarious political position.
  • Classical Movie Vampire: The primary inspiration for the vampires of the setting. Bloodsuckers, aristocrats and evil to the core - and not for any inherent reason to vampirism, they're just elitist jerks.
  • Cold Flames: Coldfire exists as the fifth element in Etharis, although only occuring naturally on the penninsula of Volgen (so far). Coldfire is one of the greatest threats to Etharis as a whole (which is saying a lot), as it continues to burn even without fuel and can only be put out by great amounts of regular fire. It transformed Volgen into an icy wasteland in just years and the Valikan clans work tirelessly to prevent it from spreading.
  • Corrupt Church: The Castinellan church is the absolute worst, dedicating themselves to Burn the Witch! out of jealousy and fear of losing control, but organized religions are not known for being especially free of grift in this setting.
  • Courtly Love: In the most Arthurian way possible. Ser Guilhelm le Preux of the Charneault Kingdom loved the king's daughter, Tiphaine. She returned his affections, but as the first daughter of the king, she had to be sent to the elven shamans to learn their ways until the end of her days. Unusually, the king actually approved of the two, but had to send her away because of the ancient oath.
  • Crapsack World: Living in Etharis sucks, if that wasn't clear already. Monsters haunt the land making travel dangerous, plagues and disasters both mundane and supernatural make life tough and the aristocracy have a tendency to literally suck the blood out of the peasantry. The DM advice outright says that every victory should feel like it was earned despite the efforts of the world.
  • Cursed With Awesome: The "Misbegotten Bloodline" subclass for sorcerers literally derived magic by studying and embracing the curse laid on their family.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: There is no alignment prescriptions on any Vile Transformation, not even becoming a lich or fiend. The book recommends a genuinely good person with one be put through hell to remain that way, but it's entirely possible to be a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire or a benign trickster of a fae.
    • Despite the very dark nature of some of the subclasses, which include things like commanding vermin, serving an elder vampire, or being a herald for plague, nothing prevents a player from still playing them as a Noble Demon or well-intentioned Anti-Hero.
    • The Laneshi have a natural affinity for necromancy, which other races regard with fear and loathing for its association with undeath, but to the Laneshi, it is viewed as a holy power that aids their people. Also, the Laneshi mystics gain this necromantic affinty by having their twin sibling sacrificed after birth to become their spiritual guide.
  • Deal with the Devil: Players that begin their transformation into a Fiend can offer these, gaining benefits of their own depending on the gift they offered the hapless mortal.
    • Otto Bouwengracht, the founder of Liesech, made one with the being known as the Filth Grazer. Unlike most examples of this trope, the deal was actually mutually beneficial, as the Grazer only wanted the filth (garbage and dead bodies) of the city, which they didn't need anyway, and gave knowledge of the best fishing spots and currents in return. The deal only turned sour when the signatories failed to fulfill their obligations.
    • The NPC Sasha Seraphsbane made a deal with an archdaemon after her lover was burned by the church, and she uses the power to wage war against Castinella and its church.
    • In the City Below of Soma, there's a dark shrine dedicated to a forgotten god that seems to spew forth all evil in the world. Morgen Hund, after his heroic Hold the Line, came across the shrine and asked for the power to destroy his oppressors. His petition was granted, and he became a vampire. Strangely, the shrine has yet to request something in return.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: The Arch Daemons are the angels who decided to embrace a dark path once they were no longer under the domain of their gods. Their number include Venin, the Arch Daemon of Deceit; Tormach, the Arch Daemon of Wrath; Gorodyn, the Arch Daemon of Avarice; Sitri, Arch Daemon of Hedonism; Beleth, Arch Daemon of Fear and Malikir, the Arch Daemon of Pride.
  • Demon of Human Origin: The players can become this with the Fiend vile transformation.
  • Draw Aggro: The Bulwark Warrior is based around this trope, using abilities to keep hostiles focused on them, and not their allies.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Outright encouraged by the Player's Guide; Etharis is not a good place to live, and a large portion of it does not want to be saved or even allow for happiness in it. So, when it does happen, it should come off as something that had to be worked for.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Aether Kindred, which mainly serve as background fluff (although it's implied that they have cults in Etharis). They are believed to have originated from the primordial chaos and have the annoying tendency of driving mortals mad at the mere sight of them. They are also thankfully uninterested in the mortal world, but provoking them is not advised (here's a hint - the last time that happened, the pantheon died).
  • Elemental Embodiment: A central part of the Valikan religion. The four Primordials (Lady Mordakesh, Alondo, Citrolach and Ilhara) are worshipped by some, although not as much as they once were, and elementals are often summoned by shamans. The Coldfire Primordial Gormadraug, on the other hand, is the evil Destroyer Deity.
  • The Empire: Both the Bürach and the Ostoyan Empires use the title, although Bürach fits this trope closer, being an expansionist nation consisting of four provinces (Nordenland, Unterland, Rauland and Abendland) united under an emperor. The Ostoyan Empire is an empire In Name Only, being splintered into its two provinces.
  • Enemy Mine: The Ostoyan provinces of Soma and Raevo hate each other, as Raevo split away from Soma after the vampires took over and the vampires want it back, but the Bürach Empire wants to conquer them both. As a result, each has come to the other's aid when they were invaded by the Bürach Empire, and they also try to avoid getting too caught-up in fighting each other to prevent being conquered whilst weak.
  • Entitled to Have You: The Bürach Empire are the political version of this toward the Ostoyan Empire. Since Ostoya was founded by political refugees from Bürach, many in Bürach feel that Ostoya rightfully belongs to them.
  • Evil vs. Evil:
    • The player characters can be monsters who are going after even worse monsters.
    • In the setting lore proper, there's the werewolf resistance against the Human Sacrifice-practicing druids of the Valikan Clans.
  • Expy: Gormadraug, the primordial of Coldfire, is one of Níðhöggr, the serpent that bit the roots of the World Tree in Norse Mythology.
  • Exact Words: The transformation into a Fey means your bound to the letter of any agreement you make - the letter, not the spirit.
  • The Fair Folk: Downplayed with elves. While the elves of the Charneault Kingdom are a bit "fairer" than, there is little mention of actual fae in the Campaign Guide, although the Player's Guide offers a vile transformation into a fey.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Morencia is fantasy Venice, the Bürach Empire are a mix of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, the Valikan Clans are the Savage North and the Castinellan Provinces are a fundamentalist Ottoman Empire.
  • Fallen Angel:
    • The Arch Daemons were once Arch Seraphs, but rather than trying to step up and continue the work of their dead gods, they saw it as an opportunity to rule Etharis unimpeded, and corrupted the domains of the gods they replaced.
    • The Downcast, on the other hand, are angels who were robbed of their power when their gods died and were rendered functionally human, falling down to Etharis in the process.
  • Faerie Court: There are two: the Summer Court, who are joyful, friendly, and beautiful, but deceptive and often hide wicked intentions behind beautiful facades; and the Winter Court, who are serious, cruel, and stoic, but straightforward and earnest. Taking the Fey transformation requires swearing loyalty to one or the other.
  • Founder of the Kingdom: Several:
    • The Bürach Empire was founded by a 12 year old boy named Thancred (later Indorius), who was chosen by the empire's four gods.
    • The elves and men of the Charneault Kingdom were united by the first king Aymeric Noblecoeur, though only thanks to the sacrifice of an elven lord named Thuridan Sarador.
    • The Valikan Clans were united by a half-orc named Thorgard, said to be the reincarnation of the legendary hero Kentigern.
    • The three Castinellan provinces of Toletum, Faro and Therpena were united by Montego Valieda, the Unifier, after he received a vision and holy mision from the arch seraph Empyreus.
    • Liesech was already a large village, but it only became a city thanks to the wealth of Otto Bouwengracht and the tithe his family paid to the Filth Grazer.
  • Friendly Neighbourhood Vampire: Players who take the Vampire Vile Transformation are capable of playing as this - the cost is relatively light, since you only need a minimum one pint of blood a week to survive, and eventually one every three days, which in game terms only inflicts a level of exhaustion. It also throws the lords of Soma into stark relief, because it's quite clear they could be better people. They just don't want to.
  • Glamour Failure: Any player who takes a Vile Transformation gains the ability to make themselves appear human, but it still requires concentration: falling unconscious, using a spell that requires concentration, entering Holy Ground (or Unholy Ground for the Seraph), or just losing control of your emotions can all cause the disguise to drop.
  • God is Dead: All of them, in fact. Most of them died in a great war against the Aether Kindred. The rest either died from their wounds, went mad and died fighting the other gods, or just left.
  • Haunted Fetter: The Haunted subclass for sorcerers turns the character into a living fetter for a ghost; their subclass features revolve around this ghostly companion as a result.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Depressingly common. Sometimes, they end up literal monsters; Lief Sarvif, while still saving people from Human Sacrifice, is still a werewolf who regularly turns others, and the Player's Guide tells the tale of a wizard who, desperate for the arcane power needed to save his town, underwent the ritual to become a lich, one component of which was the murder of his brother.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Lots of them in the Charneault Kingdom, with Tol Leyemil being the largest.
  • The Highwayman: The Highway Rider is a Roguish Archetype, that involves riding a loyal steed to make hit-and-run attacks.
  • Hold the Line: The nobility of Ostoya ordered Morgen Hund and his company to hold back the ravenous undead hordes of the City Bellow while their mages collapsed the entrance. This came back to bite them when Hund returned as a vampire and turned the entire aristocracy.
  • Human Sacrifice: The druids of Thrull perform sacrifices to prevent the awakening of Gormadraug, the Great wyrm.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Etharis was once home to thriving demihuman nations. Then humanity arrived and basically became an all-conquering horde; they utterly annihilated one of the two great dwarven and gnomish nations, forcibly subjugated the other into becoming a permanent vassal state, massacred the elves almost to the point of genocide and drove them from their homeland, and terrified the halflings so badly that the halflings volunteered to be humanity's Slave Race to avoid being crushed in turn. Zigzagged in that this was centuries ago, and most modern humans actually don't remember that their ancestors did this, nor do they hold any particular enmity towards the demihuman peoples - not to mention it was a human king of Charneault who reined back his countrymen from complete extermination, hence why most elves are native to that area. Deconstructed in that the demihumans haven't forgotten this, and many of them are eying the crumbling state of humanity's power bases in Etharis and starting to thoughtfully sharpen their weapons...
    • The vampire in the reveal trailer certainly believes this.
    For that. Is. Your. Nature. And I have witnessed it for centuries.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades: The College Of Adventurers makes the Bard even more of one then they normally are, letting them use abilities from other classes.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: The "Path of the Fractured" subclass for Barbarians revolves around mentally dividing the barbarian's mind between two personas; the intellect-driven Ego and the emotion-driven Id. The Id is the persona that takes over when the barbarian rages, and it even results in the character's body warping to the point they are unrecognizable as the same person.
  • The Kingslayer: Dmitri Speir, a retired general from Unterland in Bürach was part of the conspiracy to assassinate the mad emperor Leopold I. Afterward, he wrote a signed confession and committed suicide. Despite his status as a traitor in the eyes of the Hearthkeepers, he was buried with full honors.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The entire aesthetic of the Charneault Kingdom is based around Arthurian and Fairytale motifs, so of course this is a big part of it. In particular, knights swear oaths to nature spirits, swearing to protect them and uphold honor in return for powers.
  • Knight Templar: Oath Of Zeal Paladins are consumed by hatred for one paticular group, species, or force that they believe (possibly even correctly) to be the most vile evil in Etharis, and abandon things like compassion and honor in their pursuit to cleanse the world of this paticular evil.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the other nations, the Charneault Kingdom is by far the nicest. In a world where most other nations practice human sacrifice, brutal inquisitions, good old tyranny or is ruled by literal parasites, the Charneault Kingdom is a nation ruled by a kind and just king, where chivalry is the order of the day, noble knights make covenants with nature spirits to protect the land and humans live in harmony with elves. Of course, it's taken a downturn lately after renegade elves decided to mess with the rhythm of nature, but it is still the best place to live for smallfolk and nobles alike. It serves as a stark contrast to Bürach, Soma and Castinella, showing that each of those has the potential to be kind and benevolent, but chose not to.
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey: Most conflicts in the setting are between dark grey nations and light grey nations, like Soma (a necrocracy ruled selfishly, but competently, by vampires) and Raevo (a Magocracy that seems to have made a Deal with the Devil but provides shelter without question for everyone who has been victimized by the undead and protects magic-users).
  • Loads and Loads of Races: Unusually for a Dark Fantasy world, Etharis is surprisingly populated with playable races, especially with the release of the Player's Guide. Aside from the obligatory humans, players in Grim Hollow can choose to be:
    • Elves, who spent centuries as nomads when humanity first came to Etharis and burned down their ancestral homes, before being given magic by the spirits of nature to defend themselves, and eventually formed a truce with Charneault.
    • Dwarves, who avoided extinction after one of their two great strongholds was obliterated by humanity by agreeing to be a vassal race for humanity.
    • Gnomes, who live alongside dwarves. Inventors of gunpowder and masters of the rifle.
    • Halflings, who surrendered themselves to humanity as a slave race after seeing what happened to the elves, dwarves and gnomes.
    • Half-elves, traditionally a shunned race outcast by both parents.
    • Half-orcs, the only remaining proof that orcs existed, who dwell in the frigid northern lands.
    • Dragonborn, whose own empire fell in the war between humans and elves. They have abandoned their former gods and instead turned to the worship of the Seraphs, and are now integrated into the Castinellan theocracy.
    • Wechselkind, fake children created by The Fair Folk to replace the mortal children they take as changelings. Though they have fully human minds, their bodies are unaging. Most are destroyed by grieving parents, but some are lucky enough to survive. Their construct nature makes them impervious to disease and highly resistant to poison.
    • Laneshi, pale-skinned, green-haired humanoids from a subaquatic realm whose society embraces necromancy. They are divided into a Fantastic Caste System; those born as twins become mystics, which results in one child being ceremonially sacrificed to grant the other inherent magical powers, whilst single-born join the warrior caste, which actually runs their society.
    • Ogresh, strange, possibly giant-related humanoids who are only ever found alone; few places can support more than one. They reach up to seven feet in height, but grow enormously fat; in their youth, when they are full of wanderlust, they average 200 to 300 pounds in weight, but once they pass a certain point, they become naturally sedentary and their appetites explode, causing them to balloon to an average of 700-800 pounds. Despite their girth, they are primarily characterized by how incredibly charming they are; they are naturally proficient to social skills and can create a Charm Person effect by simply spending a minute in conversation — whilst also being able to resist charm effects themselves.
    • The Downcast are Fallen Angels struggling to deal with their new diminished state.
    • Dreamers are the remnants of a strange race who ruled over the world before the time of elves and dwarves, who sought to evade a calamity that wiped out their civilization by retreating into magical stasis in a fortified vault deep, deep below the dwarves' mountain homeland of the Stehlnewald. Now released by dwarves, they possess strange abilities that stem from their long centuries in enchanted slumber.
    • Finally, the Disembodied are the survivors of the town of Ulmyr's Gate, which was forcibly sucked into another dimension when an attempt to create a permanent portal to the Ethereal Plane went horribly wrong. Now they exist as strange, wraith-like creatures, permanently caught halfway between the material and ethereal planes.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower:
    • Players who take the Aberrant Horror Transformation begin turning into Humanoid Abominations, gaining the ability to mutate and shape their flesh in increasingly unnatural ways, including sprouting Combat Tentacles, sprouting claws and sharps tendrils, ect. The Campaign Guide encourages the DM to include elements of Body Horror in this to reflect the how alien and just wrong these abilities are.
    • The Parasite Patron for Warlocks has you become infected with the larval spawn of a world-devouring Eldritch Abomination, gaining both magical abilities and an enchanced physicality... at first. The higher the level you go, the more eldritch and disturbing it gets, until you become a living parasite yourself, able to infect the bodies of others if yours is damaged.
    • The Eldritch Domain Cleric becomes the priest of some unknown, unknowable force beyond the stars, possibly an Eldritch Abomination, or the fragment of a dead god, and gaining psychic, madness inducing abilities as a consequence.
    • Circle Of Mutation Druids forsake the natural order in favor of evolution and change, enhancing and twisting their Wild Shape forms in gruesome but effective ways. They're largely denounced by more traditional druidic circles.
  • Megacorp: The Augustine Trading Company are the fantasy variant of this, being a blatant Expy of the East-Indian Trading Company. It has a hand in every major trade, although focusing its resources in the weapon trade, and thanks to recent political upheaval in Morencia it now owns a majority of the seats on Morencia's ruling council.
  • Messianic Archetype: When the priests of each of the Bürach gods went on a holy mission to find someone to unite the provinces, they found Thancred, a boy who, at the ripe old age of 12, had slain a giant and brought a dead lamb back to life. By all accounts he was a good ruler, taking the name Indorius.
  • Must Be Invited:The Vampire Vile Transformation nets you this weakness. As an addition, if you're forced in against your will, you take psychic damage every turn until you leave.
  • The Necrocracy: Soma is a Rule of the Dead example. The upper class consists of vampires.
  • Necromancer: The College Of Requiems is a Bard who focuses on Necromancy, weaving songs of grieving and mourning that can make the dead dance to their tune. They even gain an ability to buff their undead minions just like the Bardic Inspiration does for their living allies.
  • Not Growing Up Sucks: The Wechselkinder, enchanted golems made by faeries to resembled kidnapped children, age at the same rate as humans mentally, but their physical bodies never age. As a result, even the few who aren't immediately cast out or killed by the parents of the child they replaced are still forced to contend with the awkwardness of being a perpetual child.
  • Obviously Evil: One of the major downsides of the Fiend and Lich vile transformations is that every good aligned creature that catches a glimpse of your true appearance will become immediately hostile. An inversion also applies to Seraphs. With the Primordial transformation, non-Chaotic creatures will freak out in the same way.
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Thaumaturge are a group of archmages operating from a pocket plane to protect the world from supernatural threats. They have apparently dealt with demon lords and Eldritch Abominations outside of the public eye. They have yet to do anything with the undead hordes of Soma, however, as the their Ostoyan members vote against any intervention from outsiders.
  • Our Angels Are Different: They're called Seraphs for one and can be ascended from mortals. The Arch-seraphs are currently taking the jobs of the gods in their absence.
  • Our Demons Are Different: The Archdaemons share the same origin as the Arch-seraphs, being angelic servants of the now dead gods, but the daemons chose to use their newfound freedom for their own gain, rather than carrying on their old masters' duties.
  • Our Liches Are Different: Players can become this with the Lich vile transformation. Notably it's the only one with a level requirement, being restricted to spellcasters with access to 7th level magic.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: They don't exist. While half-orcs exist in Etharis, true orcs are just boogeymen from children's stories, having died out in favor of their smarter, more friendly descendants.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Players can become one with a transformation. Unlike most transformations, it doesn't cause everyone non-evil to hate you when they realize what you are, because Soma is ruled well enough by them. Becoming a vampire also imposes all the classic weaknesses - can't enter a home without permission, can't cross or stand in running water, ect.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Players can turn into one with the Lycanthrope vile transformation. It doesn't turn you evil, but the animal mind cannot distinguish between loved ones and enemies when looking for food.
    • Lief Sarvif is a lycanthrope from the Valikan clans who actively oppose the druids performing human sacrifice by saving slaves and recruiting them into his pack.
  • Papa Wolf: In the Player's Guide trailer, a young girl is taken by a monster. Her father mournfully holds a locket with her picture, before grabbing his axe and running to save her.
    I'm coming, Arabelle.
  • The Plague: Many, considering the dark fantasy theme. The most notable is the Weeping Pox, which started in Liesech and has since spread from there. Victims are overcome by an intense euphoria before devolving into typical plague symptoms. It started when the Bouwengracht failed to pay their tithe to the Filth Grazer, due to being dead.
  • Plaguemaster: The Oath Of Pestilence Paladin, as the name suggests, has powers revolving around spreading disease. According to the Player's Guide, they see plague and death as a purifying element, purging the world of those too weak to endure and relishing their own strength.
  • Plague Doctor: A Wizard subclass here, based on blending magic and science to create various potions and poisons to alternately heal and harm - the masks are to protect themselves from their own ingredients, which are frequently toxic.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The vampire lords of Soma are far from benevolent, but they are competent, if only for the simple reason that vampires are parasites and need humans to thrive.
  • Pro-Human Transhuman: Technically speaking, none of the Vile Transformations actually turn you evil, not even the Fiend, so it's theoretically possible to try and use any of them to help others - but most of them would be a case of Bad Powers, Good People. Even the ones that don't require you to consume souls to survive, like the Lich, are still pretty cruel, or just unnatural, and you'd be playing a paticularly dark Anti-Hero at best. The exception is the Seraph, which literally involves becoming a paragon of goodness and justice to protect others - in addition to becoming The Corruptible, and potentially a Fallen Angel.
  • Reality Ensues: A City-State doesn't usually maintain its independence for long in the real world, and the same is true here. Morencia is located on an island, so it gets out relatively easy, but Liesech is quickly annexed by the Bürach Empire.
  • Royal Inbreeding: The Bürach Empire had a bad case of this, since their first emperor was blessed by the gods and it was thought diluting the divine blood would weaken it. Needless to say, this came back to bite them. And they still haven't learned their lesson.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Emperor Leopold I of the Bürach Empire was clearly insane from a young age and pretty much everyone knew that putting him on the throne would be a terrible idea. He was unfortunately the only valid candidate, and no one dared go against the Hearthkeepers, so he got his crown. He almost immediately sparked a religiously motivated civil war.
    • Exaggerated Trope: Leopold's madness was in fact so bad that it seeped into the holy artifacts he carried and infected the actual gods themselves, which directly led to their deaths.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: A mechanic for the Avatar of Slaughter. Once it's dropped to 0 hitpoints, it can be trapped in a weapon. The weapon becomes a rather powerful magic item, with the caveat that the Avatar is still in there and will encourage violence in the wielder.
  • Slow Transformation: The Vile Transformation mechanic introduced in the Campaign Guide works like this. After starting the transformation, the recipient goes through four transformation levels (not necesarrily correlating to player levels) each of which offers one of three transformation boons, and one drawback.
  • Stock Gods: Etharis used to have this type of pantheon, but they have since died and been replaced by Arch Seraphs and Daemons. See Demon Lords and Archdevils and Celestial Paragons and Archangels for more info on them.
    • God of Knowledge: Used to be Typharia, currently the arch seraph Zabriel.
    • Healer God: Aurelia used to be the more proactive version of this as the goddess of protection, but the arch seraph Miklas resembles this trope more.
    • War God: Used to be Maligant, the god of strategy and cunning in war, he is replaced by the arch daemon Tormach and the arch seraph Empyreus representing both sides of war.
    • Love Goddess: Once Vetara, the goddess of love, succeeded by the arch seraph Morael who's more about devotion to a greater cause.
    • God of Order: Once an unnamed god of justice, currently the arch seraph Solyma. Also the Rauland god Galt, god of order and craftmanship.
    • God of Chaos: Ulmyr, the Nordenland god of chaos and magic.
    • Cool God / Trickster God: Myria, the god of Joy. Their successor, the arch seraph Aphaeleon, is a whole different deal.
    • Wealth God: Used to be Jezra, god of commerce. The arch daemon Gorodyn has taken the domain of greed.
  • The Jinx: Rogues of the "Misfortune Bringer" subclass are able to literally inflict bad luck on their foes.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Zigzagged. Arcane and primal magic are doing just fine. Divine magic, however, has become steadily rarer if not weaker since the death of the original gods, resulting in a marked decrease in the number of clerics and paladins.
  • The Night That Never Ends: A lot of Soma is under constant magical darkness that seeps out of the City Bellow.
  • Theocracy: What the Bürach Empire is in effect. There is an emperor, but he is naught but a pawn to the Hearthkeepers.
  • The Red Mage: The Plague Doctor subclass for Wizards is a wizard who focuses on combining magic, alchemy and herbalism to add increased healing capabilities to a class normally focused on destructive and combat-orientated magic. Zigzagged in that the Plague Doctor also uses this knowledge to punish foes with noxious poisons and fast-brewed diseases.
  • Uncertain Doom: The Campaign Guide includes a short story about Zardov, the mayor of a small Soman town who's hoping to get permission from the dukes to build a new main road through his town. The vampires agree, but claim his only daughter in return. We're not told if the girl is just another meal or if she was turned.
    • Every seven years, ten young mages travel to Ravencourt Sanctuary to study the arcane arts, and every seven years only nine return.
  • Unequal Rites: The Castinellan Theocracy preaches a variant of the standard Arch Seraphic faith that derides arcane magic as evil and unholy, whilst divine magic is sacred and pure, resulting in their founding the Arcane Inquisition to root out all arcane magic users. The sourcebooks are very clear that this "holy writ" is in fact purely political in origin; the theocrats don't like the competition. It doesn't help that there's plenty of priests who envy the fact arcane magic is still working just fine.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: While Anita von Raiza knew that the Bouwengracht family had a deal with some kind of entity, she probably didn't expect that slaying them would release the Weeping Pox.
  • Vampire Monarch: The Ostoyan province of Soma is ruled by vampires. Originally the Grand Duke was Morgen Hund, it's currently Drago Koshevek.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Bürach Empire are way past their prime. The emperor is little more than a puppet for the church, there is talk about secession among the provinces, their infrastructure was ravaged in a recent civil war and they are trying and failing at conquering their neighbouring nation. Their territory is also greatly reduced.
  • Voluntary Vassal: The halflings willingly submitted to the humans during the age of conquest, since they didn't have the military might to resist them.
  • Was Once a Man:
    • The Beast, an enigmatic entity that roams the Bürach Empire, might have been this. Certain members of the Celestial Gate doomsday cult believe it may in fact have been the mad emperor Leopold I, who returned as a corrupting revenant after his death. This claim is considered heresy under Imperial Law, obviously.
    • It's implied that the monsters that guard Ravencourt sanctuary are actually the students that don't return from their studies.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The conspiracy that killed emperor Leopold managed to accomplish the deed, but fractured regarding the four holy artifacts. The original plan was to bring them to mages in Nordenland in the hopes of finding some cure for the madness that infected the gods, but Nordenland was split between loyalists and separatists, both of whom tried to get the artifacts.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Order of Dawn is trying to protect the world from the vampire aristocrats of Soma, but the book does admit that calling them fanatics would not be out of line.
  • Whatevermancy: In addition to the classic Necromancy, the Player's Guide also introduces Sangromancy, blood magic.
  • Wicked Witch: Surprisingly few considering the dark fantasy genre. The only ones mentioned in the Campaign Guide are a coven that supposedly lurks in the Black Mire of Ostoya
  • Wizarding School: There are several academies in the major cities of Etharis, with Nordenland in Bürach specializing in the arcane arts. The most (in)famous of these, however, is Ravencourt Sanctuary in Ostoya, which is located on an island of the coast and cloaked in supernatural mist and protected through countless magical means. Every seven years, a barge arrives in the nearby city and ten students of the arts climb aboard. Nine of them return seven years later, and the cycle continues.
  • A World Half Full: Player's and DM's are encouraged to think of Etharis in these terms - the world is dark, and cruel, and it's not getting any better. There's no one Big Bad who you can defeat and fix everything, and every victory is a battle in a war that will probably never end. Every life saved and good deed has a very real cost, and heroes and good people will die along the way. But because of all of that, it means every victory, no matter how small, is that much more valuable - in a world of bottomless darkness, even one small candle stands out as a beacon.

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