Think those Latin classes are useless? Just wait until you meet a tatzelwurm in the woods and you need to pray for Saint Drogo’s help.
There’s not a lot of room for magic in the world anymore, and you’d have a hard time convincing people to believe in anything more arcane than sparkly outfits, sleight of hand, and bored looking tigers. Turn the clock back a few hundred years however, and everyone believed in magic, not to mention a whole host of monsters, devils and other unholy creatures. In issue 300 of The Escapist, Andy Chalk looks back at Darklands, a game that recreated that age of superstition and mysticism, from the perspective of a terrified peasant.
[The] purer form of magic is not that of men but of God, or more precisely the many saints who work on his behalf. Darklands portrays 137 real-world saints in all, some well-known and others very obscure. They offer a wide range of boons; Alexis of Rome, an eastern saint who lived in the fifth century Roman Empire, will improve a party’s standing with the local populace, while Drogo, who was reportedly able to bilocate, can greatly improve overland travel speeds. Some saints will improve specific skills, while others aid in the avoidance of battles or can alert adventurers to the presence of evil. In times of true desperation, a few will even provide small amounts of money.
But prayer in Darklands is more a matter of pragmatism than of simple faith. Sufficiently virtuous supplicants can entreat a particular saint for real and immediate aid, but not without cost. Divine favor is limited and must be replenished through prayer or, for those in a rush, substantial donations to a local church or cathedral. Furthermore, anyone can pray but praying effectively is an altogether different matter. Comprehensive knowledge of saints is largely restricted to those who can read and write, understand Latin and hopefully have some religious training, and the fewer saints an adventurer knows, the fewer his options when things get ugly.
Darklands wasn’t the easiest game in the world to play – a steep learning curve and a truckload of bugs on release often made for a frustrating experience – but few games could rival it in terms of raw atmosphere. You can read more about Darklands in Chalk’s article, “Adventuring in the World of Mundane Magic.”