Archive > Dominion: Nocturne Previews

Cultural references in Nocturne

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On one of the preview threads, there was a little bit of discussion about missing cultural references on the previewed cards. As it turns out I have lot of interest in folktales, mythology, and the fantasy literature and games that have spring from those sources; so I thought I'd give a crack to examining the previewed cards, the underlying folklore/mythology/culture that's being referenced, and how it interacts with what the card does.

Overall, this set seems meant to evoke a mysterious, menacing setting where the nights are long, frightened people in the country and city alike lock their doors tightly, and strange creatures and spirits prowl. There are bright spots and defenders of goodness (Blessed Village, Faithful Hound, presumably Guardian) but overall the atmosphere is of aggression and malice.

Feel free to discuss, of course. If there's demand, I'll discuss the rest of the cards when they're available.

Devil's Workshop: There's a saying "idle hands are the devil's workshop", a somewhat puritanical warning that people who aren't kept busy by labor or schooling are likely to create mischief or otherwise do bad things in their idle time. This card takes the metaphor literally. The effect ties into the saying nicely: if you've been idle (gaining nothing) you get a very nice reward, a Gold.

Imp: An expression for a "little devil". In both D&D and the broader popular imagination, a small and weak but unambiguously evil creature. Creating them at the Devil's Workshop is apt.

Raider: No particular reference here; this is just a bandit who comes at night, attacks your town, runs off with the good stuff. The effect is pleasantly resonant with Pillage, which hey, is what raiders do.

Ghost Town: An expression for an abandoned town; in this case, the town looks to be literally haunted by ghosts in addition to just uninhabited. The card works like a delayed Village, so we have the "little settlements = bonus actions" flavor continued here.

Crypt: A crypt is a large burial chamber, suitable for burying the wealthy dead with some of their worldly wealth, which can be looted later. A common D&D trope is looting crypts for their treasure (and fighting the undead within, of course).

Shepherd: No particular reference here; shepherds are the kind of simple folk that might be the victims of these various creatures, or telling stories about them. They herd their sheep in Pastures, of course.

Pooka: One of the trickier ones here. A pooka is a Celtic faerie or spirit, not associated with any one myth in particular. Like several of the fey, they could be good or evil. They're animal shapeshifters, which is why the illustration here has bunny ears. The Pooka made an appearance in Changeling: the Dreaming, where they were specifically cast as fun-loving animal shapeshifter tricksters. One common faerie trick is to provide a gift with strings attached--this comes out as the Cursed Gold heirloom here. I'm not aware of any legend tying cursed treasure to pooka in particular.

Cemetery: In a world where the dead can come back to life, a cemetery has particular importance, of course. A ghost is the general term for the incorporeal spirit of someone who's died but who remains to haunt the world. Ghosts might want to cause harm to the living, they might want revenge or to fulfill an unaccomplished task, or they might just want company. There are a lot of folktales, stories, and media about ghosts that only appear in a mirror, a mirror being used as a way to see into the spirit world, or spirits which are trapped in a mirror. The latter is the case with Haunted Mirror: you have come into possession of a mirror with such a ghost trapped inside it, and when you break the mirror, it escapes and helps you.

Faithful Hound: No particular reference here. Just an ordinary, friendly, loyal dog that helps protect you from the various lurking dangers.

Blessed Village: No particular reference; this particular village is favored by the local nature spirits and prospers as a result.

Will-O'-Wisp: Most broadly, this is a strange light that appears over the water, usually in a swamp. They're sometimes thought of as either the spirits of the dead, or spirits in their own right. Either way, they're elusive and definitely impossible to catch. Following one out into the swamp is a recipe for not coming back. However, in this case, the swamp is friendly and the wisp actually helps you.

Idol: An idol is just an object of religious worship; in the mythic world where spirits are real, the spirit or minor deity in the idol can either bring good luck to you or bad luck to your enemies.

Druid: Historically, druids were the priest/magistrates of the ancient Celts. In the popular imagination (and as a D&D character class), they wield the magic of nature--communicating with or controlling plants and animals, shapeshifting, calling the elements. This Druid references that by letting you choose which of the nature-oriented Boons to use.

Fool: In the popular imagination, fools are often considered lucky--think Jack and the Beanstalk, who makes a series of poor decisions (buying "magic beans", climbing up into the sky castle) but ends up prospering anyway. Likewise, this Fool can get Lost in the Woods, which lets you throw away something of value to hopefully get something even better. This particular fool has a Lucky Coin which seems to bring him the wealth he needs without working for it.

Werewolf: A werewolf is a person who sometimes turns into a wolf. Depending on the setting, this is usually at night and under the full moon, and often the werewolf is extraordinarily dangerous, bestial and lacks self-control in this state. This Werewolf reflects the folklore well; he's a helpful citizen by day and a dangerous menace by night.

Skulk: No particular reference. You sneak around, steal some gold, and cause trouble for everyone else.

Cursed Village: This is, of course, the opposite of the Blessed Village. Rather than attracting the notice of beneficial spirits, it's received the attention of hostile ones, and you get in trouble just for setting foot there. The good news is that you can channel some of that dark power into a huge draw if you set it up right.

Leprechaun: The folklore of this Irish faerie far exceeds the scant mythology. Leprechauns are cobblers by trade (hence the illustration) and own pots of gold that can be found at "the end of the rainbow". But they're ill-natured--anywhere from mischievous to downright malicious--and trying to get their gold usually ends up in trouble. Likewise, if you capture a leprechaun, it will grant wishes if you let it go free; but these wishes are likely to be granted in a malicious manner that keeps to the letter of the wish while perverting its spirit. This card reflects the folklore REALLY WELL in that you get Gold, but at the price of trouble--unless you're very lucky (the number 7 is considered lucky) in which case the faerie actually grants your wish.

Exorcist: This is a little bit of a counterintuitive card. An exorcist is a priest who performs exorcisms, which drive out demons or evil spirits from a person they're possessing. (This is a real-world rite occasionally performed by Catholic priests, among others.) The most famous relevant fiction is, of course, The Exorcist. However, the card allows you to gain Spirits by sacrificing other cards rather than vice versa. At least it allows you to rid yourself of that Cursed Gold.

Pixie: The third Celtic faerie we've seen, pixies are supposed to be tiny trickster spirits, often winged. They are capricious but not necessarily evil. In this case, the pixie seems to have played a trick by turning the guy who found it into a goat. There's nothing mythical about goats, they just eat everything.

Vampire: No card or creature here has more legends built around it than vampires. Bram Stoker's Dracula didn't invent the idea, but it laid the foundation for most modern tropes. More modern examples are Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, White Wolf's Vampire: the Masquerade RPG, and of course the unfortunate Twilight series. Vampires attack and drink the blood of the living (giving out Hexes), and can charm the unwary into helping them (I think this is what the gainer effect is referring to). They can also shapeshift into wolves or bats, so this Vampire spends half her time as a bat.   

Necromancer: Most broadly, a necromancer is a wizard who specializes in death magic. Depending on the setting, this might include speaking to the dead, interacting with ghosts, etc--but in this case, the necromancer is raising the dead to as zombie servants. These particular servants represent other Dominion cards (Apprentice, Stonemason, Spy) who aren't quite as effective as reanimated corpses as they were in life.

This is all real good stuff, I absolutely want to see your take on the remainder of Nocturne, and maybe even more dominion cards in general?

A famous example of a Pooka is in the film Harvey, whose title character is an pooka in the form of a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit. That may explain the rabbit ears on the Dominion pooka.


--- Quote from: AJD on October 28, 2017, 12:21:44 am ---A famous example of a Pooka is in the film Harvey, whose title character is an pooka in the form of a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit. That may explain the rabbit ears on the Dominion pooka.

--- End quote ---

Or the artist did what I did: the first hit (for me) on Google image search is of a female human/rabbit hybrid.

I can't help but think of it as Koopa.  So maybe a man-turtle hybrid?


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