Monday, July 1, 2013

The Tribes of the Moon embrace you...


I've always been fascinated by monsters. Some of it, I think, is the idea of being powerful; monsters are, in many ways, the dark reflections of heroes and superheroes. But there's also an element of... estrangement, I guess. So many of the really interesting monsters are just trying to make their way in a world that has no place for them. Some, like Frankenstein's creation, may be tragic figures: misunderstood, abandoned, neglected, rejected, or intruded upon. For others, the demands of their nature, often some sort of hunger, make it impossible (or nearly impossible) for them to live with the people around them.

I was a weird kid. I sympathized with that. And I sympathized with it even more when I went off to college. For... various reasons, I went early - so I was younger than everyone else. And I was, um, "poorly socialized". This, in a place where the student body ranged from upper-middle class into layers of upper class; where traditions, formal and informal, were highly valued; where appearances were not considered superficial, but instead were very important. It was a setting where, without exaggeration, I was a fucking alien. A monster.

It was right at the tail end of my time there that I stumbled onto the Nightbreed. I found it, perhaps oddly, through the comic books, but they took me to both the book and the movie. The Nightbreed, the Tribes of the Moon, fascinated me: this was one of the very few worlds I'd encountered where the monsters were both the heroes of the story... and still monstrous.

Right about that time, I had an epiphany: I didn't have to stay where I was. I could move to another university. And not only that, but universities weren't all alike, and things could actually be different there! Dizzy with revelation, I transferred.

I was still out of place. I was now in a Christian university (though a very liberal sort of Christianity), I still had no interest in joining a fraternity or sorority, and once again many of the other students came from more... monied... backgrounds than myself. And yet, my experience was completely different. There were people here who were just as weird as I was, and in a lot of the same ways. It wasn't just me. At least one of them had also discovered Nightbreed, and fallen in love with it just as I had. So I mentioned, just mentioned, that it might be fun to run a roleplaying game picking up where the book and the movie left off.

I had two people bring me character sketches the next morning. They were... fascinating. And the would-be players were enthusiastic. Which meant, I decided, that I'd better figure out a game system to use, and start fleshing out some storylines.

The whole thing came together much faster and much better than it had any right to. The monsters fled the ruins of Midian, heading down into the United States in a stolen truck, and immediately got into trouble. And then into more trouble. There was running. There was hiding. There was fighting. There were narrow escapes and ancient secrets; there were rivalries and romances and tragedies within the group.

We played for over a year. We had spectators at the games. The stories, that milieu, gave us a way to look at ourselves - helped cement that vital awareness that it wasn't just me and you aren't alone. It was, in many ways, as close to having a religion as I've ever come.

So you can, I hope, imagine my reaction to learning that someone had found the original footage from the filming of Nightbreed, and was putting together a new version of the film that was more in line with original concept. Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut is important to me in way I find difficult to describe.

Then, on Friday, I learned that they're accepting submissions for Midian Unmade, a collection of short stories set after the destruction of Midian. I managed to finish work and drive home, and even get the kids to bed... but I'm not sure I said more than three words in the process, and I may have walked into a wall or two. My head's off in the dark, picking out the trail by moonlight and scent, racing to reach the not-quite-deserted graveyard and the city of monsters hidden underneath.

I'm putting together a story for this. Any writing time I have is going there. It's going to be quiet around here until I get back.


  1. So, planning on writing up any of your RPG adventures for this? I suppose you might need to get permission from the original players if you have any way to contact them.

  2. Tempting, but no - the problem with writing stories based on RPG sessions is that they frequently read like stories based on RPG sessions. I'm sure it can be done, but it would be tricky... and, as you said, those are other people's characters.

    More importantly, the dynamic there is very different from what I want to use here. The group settled, fairly quickly, into an sort of us-against-the-world mentality; they might fight among themselves, but if you messed with one of them, you messed with all of them. I want to write something with more of a sense of isolation on the individual level.


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