A Guide to Grimdark

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Sir Basil, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. [​IMG]

    beware of heroes, better to rely on your own judgment and your own mistakes -- frank herbert


    Grimdark’s name comes from the tagline for Warhammer 40K, a tabletop wargame where the world has been plunged into a dystopic future, every faction is constantly fighting one another, and traditional morals are utterly skewed. The tagline itself reads; "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war." However, grimdark is not isolated to Warhammer 40K, or war-games in general. It is a pervasive trope that has spread across many medias, including novels, television shows, and film. Although grimdark is often classified as a trope, or its own genre, maybe the best way to describe grimdark is through the strong “feeling” that comes with the label, and the characteristics of grimdark - more than any stylistic genre concerns.

    What is this feeling? Although many authors, editors, and bloggers have attempted to define the genre, trope, or whatever the grimdark label might be, they’ve experienced difficulty. One of the most difficult things to define is the “boundaries” of grimdark, including whether or not it’s a seperate subgenre of horror - but unlike horror, it doesn’t fall neatly into the genre, or use common horror tropes. Then again, Genevieve Valentine, an author and comic book writer, classified it as a subgenre of fantasy; albeit a bleak version of it. The same problems apply to her definition - grimdark doesn’t work well with the common fantasy tropes. She argues, however, that grimdark is a dismissive way to refer to fantasy novels that deconstruct common fantasy tropes ; but there are grimdark novels that aren’t fantasy. Neither of these definitions address how grimdark can be fluidly applied to many genres, and neither of them discuss the “feeling” of grimdark. The feeling, of course, is based upon the common characteristics found within grimdark.

    The most helpful of the attempted definitions comes from Jared Shurin, contributor to the online magazine Pornokitsch. In his definition, Shurin addresses the characteristics of the genre, as well as the “feeling”. He argues that there are three key components to grimdark: a grim and dark tone, a sense of realism, and the agency of the protagonists. Although I will discuss those three key components further in this guide, using them as a the framework for my own definition, there is a glaring problem Shurin’s definition. What is a grim and dark tone? T. Frohock argues that the key feature of that tone is “violence”, not “realism”. Her definition is as follows; “Grimdark is a subgenre or a way to describe the tone, style, or setting of speculative fiction (especially fantasy) that is, depending on the definition used, markedly dystopian or amoral, or particularly graphic in its depiction of violence.” She avoids discussing “realism” at all in her description, instead focusing on how “graphic” grimdark is, as a sub-genre.

    Graphic and violent might be the best way to describe grimdark’s tone. Even when there isn’t any violence - a rare occasion in the grimdark world - everything is still graphic. This graphicness is the fact that every character is covered in dirt, people are ugly, there are plagues, and famines. The worst parts of life are magnified, within the grimdark genre. For this reason, I have a different definition of grimdark, based upon Frohock and Shurin;” Grimdark is a subgenre or a way to describe the “feeling’ of a fictional space that has a graphic and violent tone, a sense of realism with regards to characters and their motivation, a strong focus on character’s agency, and a markedly dystopic or amoral world.”

    Although grimdark is in many ways a deeply unpleasant genre, it is also a genre with a lot of potential for character growth and development. It is, afterall, a genre that places importance on “character agency.” In this guide, I will walk you through the various aspects of what is both grim and dark and discuss common themes and tropes. I will talk about the great potential of the genre for incredible worlds and characters, despite the bleakness of its tone. Despite my fondness for grimdark, there is also a point where grimdark goes too far, and grimdark games can spiral out of hand.


    In an article by Bitch Media, they classified the genre, and its violence, as the following;

    A genre known for being aesthetically impeccable while also being deeply messy and painfully unpleasant. Grimdark isn’t necessarily about literal violence, though many entries in the genre are bloody, but about a metaphorical darkness [...] - S.E. Smith

    While Smith was specifically talking about “The Killing” and the juxtaposition between horrible violence and the beautiful landscape in the show, they bring up an important point. Namely, that gruesomeness alone does not make something grimdark. Afterall, if it was the violence alone that made grimdark what it is, wouldn’t every horror film be grimdark? The difference is that grimdark’s violence is usually very graphic. Graphic requires its own explaination and definition, to understand the term within this context. Wikipedia, our constant companion, defines “graphic violence” as the following; the depiction of especially vivid, brutal and realistic acts of violence.

    Realism seems to be the clear thing that separates the violence in grimdark from the violence in over subgenres. It seems to me that as a genre, grimdark is characterized by "grit". Violence is a very ugly, dangerous thing in the grimdark world; and violence is often not something you recover from. I will be drawing a lot of examples from a particularly epic story of a Thieves World RPG campaign;which has many good examples of the genre defining tropes.

    In the Thieves’ World RPG getting healing is difficult. Only one person in the world, a divinely-sanctioned general named Tempus Thale, can actively regenerate his HP (hit points). We’ll talk more about Tempus at a later point, but with regard to healing; everyone else has to find magical or mundane help. But even magic in the Thieves’ World RPG has a heavy toll, and can certainly not repair serious injuries; people with missing limbs or massive scars is a common theme in the world. Whereas in a high fantasy, less grimdark world, it would be possible to cure these wounds through magic; not so in Thieves’ World. Thus - players in the Thieves World RPG don’t necessarily want to get into fights - infection, sickness, plague, and death could all result from any sort of conflict.

    There’s an oft-repeated quote from -- where else? -- that the life of a Space Marine in Warhammer 40K is 5 minutes from the second that their boots hit the ground, on an alien world. Usually this is accompanied with a sly wink from the guy behind the game store counter and a laughing; “Good Luck!” But the takeaway from that comment, and from the Thieves’ World example is the same. Violence within grimdark settings must fulfill two criteria; 1) It must be graphic and 2) it must have consequences. Both of these are tied to the central idea of “realism”.


    Characters in grimdark, especially in grimdark fantasy, are both portrayed, and behave differently than in other subgenres. Adam Roberts, an accomplished science fiction author and critic had the succinct way of summarizing these characters; “nobody is honourable and Might is Right.” This is playing against the classical notion of fantasy heroes; and specifically the King Arthur mythos. T.H. White’s famed “The Once and Future King” is in many ways the definitive Arthurian narrative. It is from that novel the phrase; “Right makes Right” entered fantasy language. Previously, the phrase had been used by abolitionists, Sigmund Freud, and even President Abraham Lincoln. These were people who believed strongly in the strength of the human character, and the great capabilities of the human spirit. And King Arthur, for all of the heroic faults T. H. White writes into his character, is still, well, the most legendary Western hero. But what do we do with “Might makes Right?” What does that mean for our fantasy characters?

    Jared Shuruin from Pornokitsch once again provides an answer. He describes grimdark as the ultimate expression of free will in fantasy. Unlike in Tolkien-esque fantasy, where the good is clearly bad, and the good is clearly good, grimdark’s morals are expectedly more realistic and existentially complicated. In grimdark; characters have to choose between good and evil, and are "just as lost as we are.” Often, the choice in grimdark isn’t between Good and Evil morality - it's a far less exact binary in that. In grimdark, the best that characters can hope for is choosing between Grey and Grey morality; where both sides of a conflict have logical reasons for their actions, which are neither horrific nor saintly, and the conflict consists of people who are pure and admirable, as well as twisted and depraved. However, even that moral struggle is an optimistic thought in “the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war."

    More often, a character’s moral choice in the grimdark world is between Black and Grey morality. This moral quandary is described best by TV Tropes who identified this concept. They describe the trope as a protagonist / antagonist conflict, where the protagonist has a number of severe moral vices, but the villain is so evil and flawed that they are barely recognizable as human. The heroes of this sort of world are considered “antiheroes”; characters that perform questionably moral actions in the name of the greater good. But often, the villain’s in this Black and Grey world also use the greater good as the motivator for their actions. This is obviously a problem, and TV Tropes presents the following quandary; if both sides have flaws and redeeming qualities, how do they know which is which? And that’s, of course, the grimdark characters’ dilemma as noted by Shuruin.

    What about goodness? Pure goodness - embodied in King Arthur types? That doesn’t have a place in grimdark. TV Tropes (somewhat glumly) suggests that if there are any genuinely good characters within this type of narrative, they are teetering on the edge of a moral tipping point, are doomed to die horribly, or become a figure of perpetual mockery. The best thing that can happen to a Lawful Good type within this world is a healthy level of cynicism that makes them as flawed as anyone else.

    This certainly seems like the same predestined morals found within Tolkien. The Good are doomed to be Gray, and the Black are just Black -- but that’s not the case. Within grimdark, there’s always the choice. Frank Herbert, author of the arguably grimdark Dune series, suggested in his novels that what makes humans human is that we "grab the firebrand" and takes control of our destiny. That "subhuman" or "nonhuman" animal attempts to take control of their destiny and is unable to, or does not try at all. It’s a multilayered choice, because somebody who is human - i.e has tried to control their fate - can make the wrong choices for his destiny. And that leads to the Gray and Black Morality. Through this line of thinking, it’s possible to argue that the most truly human protagonists are the grimdark ones. They always are attempting that moral choice, and often making it - but they, and the reader, are always in doubt about if the choice they’ve made is the morally right one. And that’s true for the villains as well. Doubt is key to the grimdark character.

    Going back to my Thieves’ World RPG example, the following event happens. The players take a job for the notoriously evil Tempus Thales, because they need money to survive. The job is not morally aligned either way - Tempus simply tells them to go to a location, and check it out; because people have been going mad around there, and magical artifacts have started showing up out of the blue. The players agree, largely because they need money, but also because they are genuinely interested in what’s going on. Whether or not that’s out of moral concern, or simple greed for magical treasure, is left in doubt. The players then go to the location, find a cult, and kill all of the clearly evil cultists. They were motivated by unknown morality to do a relatively noble thing. However, they then accidentally throw a flask of acid in Tempus’s face, entirely unprovoked. He opened a door suddenly behind the players, and they didn’t know who it was; so they threw acid at the unknown, and it turned out to be Tempus. While Tempus is evil, and it was an accident, it was entirely unprovoked, and rather than try to help Tempus with his melting face, they fled. The morals of that situation are relatively layered and complex; Tempus is irredeemably evil, but their actions were unnecessarily hostile, but it was an accident, but they didn’t try to help. Nonetheless, the situation follows a realistic logic, albeit being morally confused.

    Like violence, actions in grimdark have consequences, regardless of moral outlook. In the Thieves’ World RPG adventure, the players nearly sell their acid-flinging wizard to Tempus for the sake of a reward; valuing the money over their friendship. The DM notes that he didn’t think they would do it; but there was still that doubt. And the fact that they considered it all speaks a lot about their character’s morality. Maybe it would have been easier to turn in their friend - considering that this general now wanted them dead, and that became the new theme of the campaign. In grimdark RPs, I’ve found, the game’s objective can change at any moment based upon the importance grimdark places, as a genre, on character agency and moral choices.


    Leaving Thieves’ World behind for the moment, the tagline of Warhammer 40K needs to be addressed once again. "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war." This doesn’t describe the narrative conventions I’ve discussed in depth; this is a description of a setting. Warhammer 40K takes place in a world where there is truly constant warfare, militaries rule multiple worlds, and as a consequence, both sides are taking more and more depraved routes to victory. The grimdark world is a world characterized by this scramble, for power, for survival, and it doesn’t have any end in sight. The grimdark world is one in which desperation is clearly present, as is the widespread doubt that a better future is possible.

    This desperation in the present, and doubt for the future is summarized in a quip from the 1D4Chan Wiki’s description of grimdark; change is worse. When new measures are taken by either players, in-universe authority, or characters; those new measures always make things worse. In the Warhammer 40K example above, the ever escalating warfare and military structure results in more and more uses of amoral technology and magic. Grimdark is a punishing genre; it’s bleak. It’s depressing and frustrating to see the compromise of ethics, morality, and decency. I know as a reader and player, there have been moments where I have screamed at my grimdark media and said; “What are you doing? Don’t you know what this will lead to?” But the truth of the matter is that; the characters don’t know. They’re either trying to survive, or trying to indulge their vices, or (rarely) genuinely trying to make the world a better place. Once again, 1D4Chan Wiki has a response to that: “If you ever, EVER try to change this shitty world or try to help one person just a little, you will probably suffer terrible consequences, because altruism is a dying philosophy.”

    Not to quote from 1D4Chan Wiki too much, but they have a list of practical qualifiers for a grimdark world. It’s important to note that these world details are also “graphic”; they’re realistic, and hyper-exaggerrated in terms of their nastiness and unpleasantness. Although the Wiki provides many examples, I’ll note some of the most clear and undebatable aspects that they list as characterizing the grimdark world.

    • Constant, never ever-ending warfare.
    • Horrifyingly large death tolls are perfectly normal. (Again, my example of the “lifespan of a space marine quote. That number is never questioned; and as far as I can tell, the moral question of whether or not is acceptable to send so many people to their deaths is never asked by anyone of importance within the Warhammer 40K world.)
    • The vast majority are poor people who literally live in filth, disease, poverty, and crime. The only people who do not live like this are the few greedy upper 1% who own 99.9% of everything.
    • Everyone is racist. Either towards non-humans, or other human races. (This is also inclusive of homophobia, and hatred against religious minorities.)
    • Anti-intellectualism and nihilism. (Those who are interested in making the world a better place through their learning and higher education, of course, are slated to be punished. Nihilism, or the belief that life is meaningless, ties to the idea of “change is worse”. Life cannot have a purpose, when it only gets worse for reasons that seem incomprehensible to a character within this universe.) -- provided by 1D4Chan Wiki
    The Thieves’ World RPG campaign provides a useful example here. The players, now on the run from Tempus, hide within the city. They use their connections and street skills to avoid Tempus, and actually manage to vex him at every turn. The players manage to gain some ground against Tempus, and help “free” some sections of the city from his totalitarian fist. However, the more frustrated Tempus gets with the players, the more he takes it out on the city. He calls in a group of mercenaries to run the city under martial law. He promises that if the city continues to shield the players, people will die - every day. And this is not an idle threat, the grimdark world has consequences. Tempus does kill people. Every day that the players hide from him. Whatever good the players intended to do has blown up in their face, and they are now in an escalating fight of urban warfare against Tempus Thale, while the city dies around them because they are unwilling to surrender themselves for the greater good. The morality is twisted, and the world that lets these consequences happen is twisted too.

    Grimdark is sometimes categorized as a horror genre for exactly these reasons. Not just for the violence, but for the general nasty, dirtiness within the world. Grimdark's horror elements come from the most psychological horror possible : humanity is just as nasty , brutish, and short as nihilistic commentary makes it out to be -- and that good does not triumph over evil. Despite all the blood, gore, death, and torture ; that's not real the key horror of Grimdark. It's the fear that humanity is exactly what Grimdark presents it as.


    Grimdark being what grimdark is, introduces some very difficult concepts. Amongst the seemingly endless violence in the grimdark world, torture and sexual violence are common tropes. Although these are already horrifying, heinous acts outside of fiction, the grimdark genre often intensifies the magnitude of these crimes by combining them with other aspects of the horrible world; monsters, warfare, and racism. Worse still - these vile acts are often viewed as pedestrian and ordinary within the grimdark world. When warfare is everywhere, and part of everyone’s life, it begins to lose its taboo nature; and the same is true for these truly evil acts.

    If you want to RP grimdark, there is a certain understanding that needs to be reached on Day 1 of the Interest Check or OOC. “This is grimdark.” Bad things happen - really, really bad things. If your players are not clear on what grimdark is, they may join a roleplay will cause them severe discomfort or worse. For this reason, transparency between the DM and their players must be reached about what content is or is not acceptable within a grimdark RP. Unlike many other RPs, with more traditional morality, grimdark is, by definition, a world where the worst, most unspeakable things can and do happen. But yet, it is still possible for grimdark RPs to get out of control.

    The following story of the Thieves’ World RPG is under a content flag for a reason. This is a story about what can happen when a grimdark RP gets out of control, and involves severe sexual violence, and some genuinely disgusting gore. You have been warned.
    Show Spoiler
    Show Spoiler
    After the player’s in the Thieves’ World RPG refused to surrender to Tempus Thale, he, as I said, began to kill people in droves. The mercenary company that he hired, the Second Sons, were butchering people in the streets. The city ran with blood, but the players weren’t willing to give up. So, it was time for Tempus to make another thread. He called a city assembly - mandatory of course - and the players showed up as well, watching from the crowd. Tempus was there, hideously deformed from the acid to the face. With him - much to the player’s shock - were some of the townsfolk they had befriended, including one of their character’s love interest. The love interest, a barmaid at a local tavern, was then raped and killed in public by Tempus ; who explained that this would continue to happen until the players gave up.
    The players were horrified and angry. They decided to really bring the fight to Tempus, and began to use the Second Sons’ strategies against them; and the hunter became hunted. However, the Neitzssche quote that even my World of Warcraft box can quote proves true. "He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster.” The Second Sons’ are a company with a structure similar to Greek hoplites, based upon bonded pairs. Also like hoplites, many of the Second Sons’ are gay. As an act of revenge towards Tempus, the players started to pose dead mercenaries in compromising positions, and often vulgar ones. The DM of this Thieves World RPG campaign was actually disgusted with how detailed and homophobic his players were with regards to the Second Sons. But he was also horrified with himself for RPing Tempus Thale’s despicable actions.

    The DM of this Thieves World RPG asked his players if they needed to stop, because he felt like things had gotten out of hand. They didn’t feel that way, but it is clear from this story that this was no longer a welcoming or safe gaming space; the fantasy had become a little too real, and certainly went far darker than it necessarily needed to ; on both sides. While in some ways, the actions described above are characteristic of grimdark RP, there is a certain point when it becomes clear that the RP needs to end, or the situation needs to be seriously addressed from an OOC level. While the example I have provided only shows what happens when one or two grimdark tropes are taken to an extreme, any of them can be. Grimdark tropes taken to this extreme level makes the RP truly “too grim, too dark.”

    With all of this in mind, why would anyone want to play Grimdark?


    I said earlier that I have a fondness for grimdark. That’s not particularly true; it’s not a fondness. I love grimdark. I love grimdark so much, that I feel a strong need to defend it, despite all the bad things I described. It’s important to remember what I said about characterization, and realism, because in my eyes, those are the most important, redeeming qualities of a “far future where there is only war.” But obviously, grimdark has great capacity to get out of hand, and is filled with some really horrific content. For all of its horrible qualities, and for all of its good qualities; I enjoy it. Does this make me some kind of damaged person? Why would anyone in their right mind enjoy a genre that is so bleak, so nihilistic, and filled with so many loathsome themes? Surely characterization and the occasional gritty realism don’t save the genre for me?
    Grimdark, as a genre, is on the rise. Bitch Media spoke to Washington Post critic Alyssa Rosenberg; who claimed that there is more grimdark on television and cable now than ever before. Director and producer Rachel Talalay even noted that even so-called “women’s networks” are making horror and grimdark shows. More people are consuming this once obscure, difficult to define sub-genre than ever before, myself included. But why?

    When confronted with the random violence and cruelty of the world, not everyone wants to read about a sweet and just fictional reality. Perhaps some of us want to see worlds that mirror our own or to see characters coping with darkness. While grimdark works, especially those in works-in-progress like television shows, the plots don’t necessarily tie up into neat resolutions, but they can provide hope; Walter White achieves redemption, in his own strange way, Game of Thrones is full of violence but Tyrion Lannister comes out on top even in terrible situations, [...] Oddly, there is a powerful sense of hope in grimdark, even as the genre feels bleak and horrific on the surface. -- S. E. Smith, Bitch Media.

    According to 1d4Chan, this is impossible. The characters that try to make things better will inevitably fail, are already morally lost, and will be punished for even trying. But I, for one, enjoy watching them try, even if I know they’re going to fail. The characters are always in doubt. And that includes doubt about whether or not they’ll succeed. Just a sliver of doubt - that’s enough for a character to have hope.

    That’s enough for me too.


    This is not a full section of this guide for the following reason; I will probably make another guide in the future about “edgy” characters, colloquially referred to as “edge lords”. However, grimdark is often referred as the “edgy” genre, because constant death and violence are oddly attractive states to such players. The nihilistic attitude presented in grim-dark situations is something that people who are interested in making “cool” and “different” characters flock to. However, this presents its own series of problems, that I’d like to discuss in further detail at a later day.

    Grimdark becomes what 1D4Chan refers to as “grimderp” and I refer to as “edgy” by taking the extreme tropes of grimdark, and pushing them even further. Rather than it resulting in a truly horrifying, uncomfortable situation like the Thieves’ World RPG campaign, it results in something that just seems silly. The problem is the “edgy” character, while potential fine on its own, does not exist in a vacuum. These “edgy” character’s traits are usually created without forethought for how these characteristics interact with the world. Edgy characters exist without consequence. And, worse, since RP is a collaborative experience - how those traits interact with their fellow players.

    Not only are these characters usually disliked ICly - and often OOCly - the character’s morality is completely messed up. There isn’t doubt about their morals - they are very clearly, simply “wrong.” The character’s utter lack of morality induces complete apathy and hatred in the work’s readers - and amongst your fellow players. Although grimdark, as a genre, can certainly be over the top, and overly “edgy” through the grimdark world’s self destructive tendencies, there is a key difference. Grimdark is genuinely about human experience and human morals. As 1D4Chan wiki says about the criticism of Warhammer 40k, the grimdarkness of the world is meant to underline how corrupt and desperate society is. The real “heart” of the story is how even those who are neither incompetent nor malicious still have to make brutally difficult choices. Grimdark is always about human choice. The fundamental differences between Grimdark and “The Edge’ is that grimdark has consequences, choices, and internal logic. The edge does not. Don’t fall off the edge!

    Coding: FieryCold Modified By: Sir Basil
    #1 Sir Basil, Aug 23, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2016
    • Useful Useful x 11
    • Love Love x 10
    • Nice execution! Nice execution! x 5
    • Like Like x 3
  2. A mighty swing at the grimdark genre — the Emperor would be proud. I've got a few comments and questions for you but I'll pitch them one at a time.

    The protagonists would fail to heal the world, but you would agree they're capable of improving their own lot in life? I believe you included examples of grimdark characters doing so in this very guide. It's not as glorious as winning the war, but winning enough battles along the way can be enough to seal a victory for the soul.
  3. Glory to the God-Emperor ! I am glad you enjoyed this guide, and I will try to answer your questions as best I can !

    The Bitch Media article argues exactly this question, and I'm inclined to agree some of the time. The struggle of a Grimdark hero seems to me, to be an internal one. Exterior redemption or messianic respect for "saving" the world is something that the Grimdark hero might strive for, but it's not what ends their story -- and I think that either of these endings would defy the genre.

    Although the Grimdark hero might not change the world, they do change themselves ; either in how they view themselves or a true change with a switch of behaviors and morals. They achieve internal salvation - even if they do not achieve external change.

    I think that the absolute best-ending for a Grimdark hero, and the most that they can hope for is, well, hope. Grimdark heroes who die - and a lot of them die - often leave the world believing that while they personally didn't make a difference , the nihilistic attitude of their Grimdark universe might be shifted. The Grimdark hero doesn't save the world - the hero saves the idea of a better world.
  4. I'm unsure how you're using the term internal. Obviously the protagonist will often battle external threats, many of which they'll overcome; as well as struggle to recruit other characters over to their cause/crusade, some of whom will join our hero. Each victory, from my perspective, is simultaneously internal and external.

    And while I agree the hero cannot change the fate of the world, they can change the present state of their 'neighborhood,' for better or worse. And so I don't view the heroes as having failure built into them, that's reserved for the setting. I don't have issues separating the two.
  5. I think an external victory - I.E making a significant difference in the world for good - is contrary to Grimdark as I define it. An internal victory - by which I mean the character's view of themselves , and the world around them - is I think the heroic victory for Grimdark heroes.

    The key difference , I think, between victories in Grimdark and victories in ... Not Grimdark , is that the heroes don't "win" in the traditional sense. What that means is certainly a matter of perspective. I view the Grimdark heroes "success / victory" as being at peace with themselves , and leaving the narrative with hope -- even if that is unlikely to come to fruition.

    Of course though, that's a matter of opinion - and part of the reason I wrote this guide ! Grimdark is super difficult to define , and there are definitely different perspectives on all the aspects that I listed here. I tried to focus on what seemed "common" or "widespread" themes in Grimdark literature , and what that means for non-Grimdark genres over all. :)
  6. The difficulty here is the vagueness of the terms "significant" and "good". Where does either start and end? Would a Space Marine Chaplin pulling his Chapter out of the choking grip of chaos taint count as significant? How about good?

    How about a sprawl gang lord fighting her way to the top of underworld, bringing much needed street justice along the way? It's all grimdark in my eyes.

    I think the takeaway here is I'd appreciate it if you tag me whenever you start your next 40k/30k roleplay! :) I'm guessing you would put a lot of love into it.
  7. Significant and good are definitely super disputed - by people way smarter than me !

    Full disclosure , I've never touched a WH40K game in my life ! I'd like to play one, if it was more RPG-like, and less war game like ! Most of my experience with 40k comes with reading the lore and tiny pieces of the books. But, I do love the world !

    I'll definitely keep you in mind , though. I'm currently running a grim dark fantasy game - but it's all full up , and I'm swamped with games! But there can definitely be some Grimdark adventures in our future. :)
    • Like Like x 1
  8. This guide was intriguing and well written! I know a lot more about the grimdark genre now! Thank you for your effort!!
    • Thank Thank x 1
  9. Thank you! I tried to focus on the basics of the trope, while also talking about some of the more complicated, morally complex themes within it. Maybe could have stood to be a little more focused, but. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it! :D
    • Love Love x 1
  10. Slightly off-topic here, but there actually is an official tabletop RPG for 40K out there, if you're into that.

    More importantly, awesome guide. I came out of that having learned a thing or two, particularly in regards to how this can go wrong.
    In my mind, grimdark is inherently absurdist: I don't see a way in which a world can realistically have 99.9% of things go horribly wrong in the same way as it can't have 99.9% of things go perfectly right, particularly on a massive scale. Grimdark is just a more gothic expression of cool for its own sake, without any particular purpose.

    I mean, 40K, which is pretty much the codifier for grimdark, has enormous cathedral-star/battleships which bring death to entire planets manned by seven-foot-tall fascist cyborg zealots committing genocide a thousand times daily across the galaxy in the name of a dying god, with spikes and gigantic guns WHICH SHOOT MORE SPIKES THAT EXPLODE.

    But at the same time, how can you not be a fan of that? Grimdark is one of the few places where you can seriously and unironically pull that off while simultaneously exploring philosophy and symbolism for pleasure instead of it being some stuffy intellectual chore in a lecture hall or literature class.

    It's beautiful, it's awesome, and you just can't help but love it.
    • Love Love x 1
  11. I'm aware of the Warhammer RPG! I can never find anybody willing to play it with me, but if I could , I totally would.

    Also, I'm so glad you like the guide , and absolutely agree with you ! Many of the articles I looked at when I was doing research for this guide definitely talked about Grimdark as this absurdist expression of machismo, grit, and bleakness to the absolute maximum. And there's definitely some truth to that arguement -- but I still think even the absurdity of it holds a grain of truth. Like you said, it's about exploring intellectual ideas in that space. :)

    Of course, when it no longer follows any internal logic and is just grim and dark for its own sake... well.... That's how we get E D G E.

    Anyway ! Glad you liked the guide !
    • Like Like x 1
  12. I am Steel Hyaena, and I am a grimdark writer... and I approve this post. :-)
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Basil, I loved to read your thoughts about the genre. Your definition of grimdark as "a subgenre or a way to describe the 'feeling' of a fictional space that has a graphic and violent tone, a sense of realism with regards to characters and their motivation, a strong focus on character’s agency, and a markedly dystopic or amoral world," is absolutely spot on.

    I love the genre for its sense of realism and for the consequences each decision has. There are many shades of grimdark I guess, and what one person does not consider to be particularly dark is beyond another person's comfort level. There indeed can be very disturbing scenes in grimdark and while I write in the genre myself, I struggled to read a scene in the King of Thorns. In the end, I just could not read it in full. But that very scene which I skimmed connected me with Jorg, the protagonist of the novel, on a very deep level and I love the book overall.

    There's an ongoing dispute whether A Song of Ice and Fire is grimdark. I think that it fits the definition and that the tale is absolutely awesome because of the realism. My attitude toward its author can be summed up as follows:
    Spoiler (open)

    How could you kill Robert?
    No, not Ned!
    Why couldn't Drogo stay alive?
    Renly? Are you being serious?
    It's Rob! You evil incarnate!
    It's just plain wrong to do that to Theon.
    Jon? I think I should start seeing it coming.
    Now, if you kill off Jamie, I'm not going to read another word in this series. EVER. (And while I worry senseless about the golden Lannister, I have read the books twice and am on the third run through)

    Overall, I absolutely agree with your view about rp-ing grimdark. People need to understand what kind of world they would enter to make the right choice for themselves. Grimdark isn't for everyone. But provided that it doesn't get out of hand as you described, it's a very rewarding genre. I even think that it's possible for the protagonists to achieve a victory in a grimdark world, but there always is a serious level of doubt whether they would and at the same time the hope despite the low odds of success. And as you said, it's the hope that makes it worth reading and writing.
    • Thank Thank x 1
  14. OOh, this is mah genre!
    @Francis most of your text are invisible on the default black forum skin :(
    • Like Like x 1
    • Thank Thank x 1
  15. I never knew what a grimdark is til now, so thanks for this guide.
    • Like Like x 1