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Tabletop Game / Masque of the Red Death

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Masque of the Red Death is a campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons, created by TSR and later expanded by Arthaus Games. Named after Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death", it was a spinoff of the Ravenloft campaign setting and had several facets in common: it was a gothic horror setting, with mysterious powers, and had restrictions on magic and planar travel. Unlike Ravenloft, it was set in a more modern era, an 1890s version of Earth called "Gothic Earth" —the latter supplement Chronomancy confirmed that this was the same Earth as that of the Historical Reference supplement line.

In this setting, character classes were Retooled to more modern ones like "Athlete," "Criminal," and "Cowboy," and characters received salaries depending on their career. There were magic-using classes (the Adept) and priest-like ones (the Dilettante), along with some others that were rough parallels of the traditional D&D classes.

The eponymous Red Death of this setting was a mysterious force that was not strictly defined in the campaign materials. Several theories were floated in the materials to give DMs something to play with. The Red Death was known to raise undead, make people insane or change them into monsters, and move locations around, as well as a source of magic for other beings. These traits being similar to those of the Dark Powers of Ravenloft strongly hints that the Red Death may be one of their number.

In 2004, Arthaus Games published a sourcebook for Masque of the Red Death, under the Sword & Sorcery imprint, that updated the setting to the 3rd edition of the d20 System. In addition, some of the qabals, and even the Red Death itself, got cameo mentions in the Urban Fantasy settings of d20 Modern.

This campaign setting provides examples of:

  • Alien Space Bats: The timeline diverts around 2700 BC when the Red Death breached Earth's universe.
  • Crossover: The Odiare domain was once part of Italy, but now is in the Land of Mists. Likewise, Captain Pieter van Riese was orginally from Gothic Earth's Netherlands before becoming a Darklord.
  • Dhampyr: Gothic Earth was the birthplace of the dhampyr concept in Dungeons & Dragons as a whole, surpassing even its parent setting Ravenloft. This resulted in such oddities as the Darklord Tristen ApBlanc, the son of a mortal woman and her lover-turned-vampire, being a vampyre, which is established elsewhere as simply a blood-drinking demihuman race with no connection to humans or vampires.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Red Death itself.
  • Magic Is Evil: Unlike Ravenloft, where you have to use magic for evil in order to incur a Powers check, using magic at all in this setting is just as bad, as the Red Death is the source of magic in this setting, and casting spells is a good way to draw its attention.
  • Nintendo Hard: When the RPGA incorporated this game into its Living Death campaign, its tiered system meant that most enemies could only be hurt with magical weapons. 1st-level characters (that is, every new character) did not have the time or money for magical items. As a result, total party kills were the norm and Dungeons & Dragons became as punishing as Call of Cthulhu.
  • Partial Transformation: AD&D 2nd Edition boxed set, "A Guide to Gothic Earth". Lady Michelle LeDeuce is a werefox who can assume three different forms: a silver fox, human being, and a hybrid fox/human.
  • Public Domain Character: Dracula, Moriarty, Frankenstein's monster, Sherlock Holmes ... While the Ravenloft setting used expies of the famous figures from gothic and victorian litterature Red Death names the original ones.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: AD&D 2nd Edition boxed set. In the adventure "Red Tide", the Chaotic Evil vampire Dracula has eyes that glow a feral red when he's feeding.
  • Retirony: AD&D 2nd Edition boxed set. In the adventure "Red Tide" a sailor writes in his journal that he's about to propose marriage to his girlfriend as soon as he gets home. He's murdered by a vampire a short time later.
  • Sword Cane: Available for purchase by adventurers in the setting.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: AD&D 2nd Edition boxed set.
    • Adventure "Red Death". When the Ebony Clock strikes midnight the Red Death disease will strike every living creature in the mansion and kill them.
    • Adventure "Red Tide". Dracula drains the Life Energy of six humans and places their bodies into coffins at midnight on January 28th. The next night, at midnight on January 29th, the dead humans become vampires.