Do you remember the classic dark fantasy video game Vermis? Probably not, because it doesn’t exist. But it can still inspire your next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
That’s because Vermis does exist, in a sense. The fake video game is the inspiration for Vermis I, an artbook by independent artist Plastiboo that masquerades as an ‘official guide’ for the made-up title. (Thanks, GamesRadar.)
While neither Vermis nor its guidebook are playable games in their own right (Plastiboo describes it as “a pure act of world-building”), the book is designed to help inspire players’ settings and adventures in tabletop RPGs such as D&D (as well as wherever else it gets the creative juices flowing).
The first book in the planned series, subtitled Lost Dungeons and Forbidden Woods, includes plenty of gothic aesthetic and moody pixel-art illustrations accompanied by evocative text that wouldn’t sound out of place from the mouth of a Dark Souls NPC. There’s a corpse staring down a well “mesmerized by the reflection of its living flesh”, creepy monsters such as The Stench Champion and Ghost Mother (With Newborn), and details on unsettling locations from the Silver Swamp to The Pestilent Mines, along with the known gods of the universe.
While some of Vermis’ entries for creatures and characters include a description of their equipment and a rough measure of attributes such as Strength, Faith, Will and Intelligence in the form of stat bars, the book doesn’t include any hard-and-fast stat blocks or mechanics designed for use in tabletop RPGs. It simply hands the reader ideas - and what ideas! - to use as they see fit.
Plastiboo cites old-school dungeon-crawlers as a major influence on the book, seen in its stark use of black, white, red and yellow and vintage look - recalling both classic fantasy illustrations and retro video-game art. Fans of Elden Ring, Berserk and World of Horror, as well as the likes of tabletop RPG Mörk Borg or even Fighting Fantasy, will be right at home.
The €15 softback book is now on its third printing via publisher Hollow Press. (You can also pick up some of Plastiboo’s gorgeous artwork as prints.) The second volume in the promising series is yet to be revealed.