The original Dungeon Master’s Guide for Dungeons & Dragons, first published in the late 1970s, contained a list of authors and artists that had inspired Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and the rest of the TSR team.
Missing from amongst the likes of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft and Fritz Leiber was a woman who, according to poet and author Janaka Stucky, had pioneered the sword & sorcery genre before Gygax had even been born. That’s why C.L. Moore's work is the central inspiration of Stucky’s newest project - the Black God’s Kiss. Currently crowdfunding, the boxed set contains adventures compatible with both D&D 5E and Old School Essentials, along with a microgame that one or two players can enjoy on their own.
Black God’s Kiss translates Moore’s short story of the same name to something that works both as a setting and an OSR-style adventure for players to explore. Would-be heroes will plumb the depths of an eldritch pocket dimension rife with deadly threats inspired by the cosmic horror genre and Moore’s own writing, which strayed deeper into atmospheric and sensory descriptions than most of her peers’ work, at the time.
It also brings forward a modernised version of Moore’s protagonist Jirel of Joiry, a warrior of faith who is determined to seek a damned pact with the Black God in order to save her home from something she must deem far worse. Parties will likely run into Jirel as she descends to the furthest depths of the Black God’s realm and may attempt to aid or interfere with her quest.
Though the OSE version supports levels 1 through 6, while the 5E version has two options for lower and mid-level parties, Stucky emphasises on the campaign page that these adventures are designed to put players constantly out of their depth and within death’s reach as often as possible. Characters’ humanity is mechanised as a limited resource that is constantly under siege by unknowable and inhuman forces.
The boxed set, which is available both digitally and as a physical game, will contain the RPG sourcebook alongside Moore’s original short stories for Black God’s Kiss and Black God’s Shadow, both republished as their own separate softcover novellas. Modules adapting both stories are also included in the box, as well as an original module titled Escape the Keep.
Those who can’t gather a full group willing to risk their lives in the weird morass can still enjoy the setting through a microgame called Black God’s Gambit, designed for one or two players. They will take up the mantle of either Jirel or the Black God and face off against one another. Jirel must seek the Black God’s power to enact her revenge against those who threaten her kingdom, while the horrific deity places foes, traps and psychic snares to eat through Jirel’s humanity before she can reach her goal.
The team behind Black God’s Kiss includes Stucky and game designers Peter Bebergal and Max Moon. Arizona-based illustrator Saprophial will provide artwork on all the book covers, as well as interior art. The map of the Black God’s realm used for the microgame was designed by Jog Brogzin, and Knucklebones Miniatures created the miniatures included in certain pledge levels.
The Kickstarter campaign for Black God’s Kiss runs through September 28th. Digital files are currently expected to be ready by July of 2023, while physical boxes will ship in September of that year.