Hey guys! I am so unbelievably happy to announce that my secret project is officially finished! After four solid months of work, Table Fables is complete.
Now, Table Fables is a labor of love - 84 illustrated pages of item tables and generators to make dungeon masters’ lives a little easier. Inside you’ll find a ton of cool things including but not limited to: a full character generator, a disease generator, a kingdom generator, potion generator, a magic items table, a scavenging table, a curse table, a dream table and a ton of other little fun things!
Reasons why I believe the fairytale books effects lingered:
-Cassandra became Prince Charming and is still attracting girls like a freaking magnet
-Cassandra’s tumor became operable after the fairytale book and her gift actually became magical possibly because of Merlin’s power
-Jacob has a serious addiction problem with axes after the whole huntsman thing (how many times have we seen him with an axe since?)
-Jacob gets electrocuted a lot and is still alive possibly as a result of being a robot
-Eve has expanded her wardrobe and has loosened up since her princess stint
-Eve was already a ninja though so no change there
-Ezekiel already has pretty good luck and his immunity to a lot of magic is just icing at this point
The Fable series has always been one of my favorites for more reasons that I can list. The beautiful imagery, quirky art style, and humor (particularly the humor that’s easily missed) cement it as one of my favorite game franchises. Despite the lighthearted nature of the series, however, it also has moments of darkness that are intensely effective in creating pathos. In Fable II, for example, the Banshees would whisper secrets about Sparrow’s dead sister to them during fights. In Fable III, the dark themes present in the previous games takes a more prominent place in the story, with the Darkness occupying the spot of antagonist for the latter half of the game. The quest where the Darkness is introduced, Darkness Incarnate, is one of the most beautifully horrifying and deeply unsettling depictions of darkness that I’ve seen in a game to date.
Fable is not a horror game. The quest does not feature jump scares, body horror, or splattered viscera. This does not mean that the quest is not deeply unsettling. The quest begins when Walter and the Hero wash up shipwrecked on the beach of what they presume to be Aurora. Right away, the quest shifts from what the player assumes is a triumphant escape from Logan’s clutches to an atmosphere of solitude and quiet desperation. Ben Finn and the hero’s dog are nowhere to be found, although the dog reappears shortly to guide the player to the next phase of the quest. In this introduction to the quest, Walter and the Hero wander through desert caves, while Walter comments on his hatred of darkness and confined spaces that has been mentioned previously in your interactions with him. Here the soundtrack is subdued and eerie, but not overtly suggestive of horror. The dog leads them to a hole in the floor of an abandoned temple, covered with a gently-shimmering pink-purple light. The skeletons of adventurers nearby tell of the dangers of the light, but their lack of options leads the Hero and Walter to investigate. Walter stumbles upon a fragment of parchment upon which an incantation is written, which he then reads. The barrier vanishes, which would be a sign that something is going correctly in any other quest, but the player is left with a sense of unease at the simplicity by which they were able to dispel the barrier supernaturally. This is one of the few cases in the game where magic is not obviously powered by Will - the player assumes that it is a relic of the Old Kingdom, but the light is not the bright blue of typical Old Kingdom relics, which adds to the sense of alienation and “otherness” of Aurora. As the hero and Walter descend into the hole (confronting Walter’s fear and the player’s trepidation) the barrier is shown reappearing, trapping the two inside. This is a reinforcement of the “trapped” and “hopeless” motifs showcased here.
As the two enter the hole, a loading screen is shown, which differs from the style of the screens for the rest of the game. Instead of a collection of amusing posters, the screen is dark, save for a section of the darkness which appears to be carved away to house a candle bathed in purplish-blue light. This candle, surrounded by darkness, foreshadows the thematic significance of inner light in the midst of darkness that is further signposted in the rest of the quest. The coloration of this screen continues the motif of purple. It is also on this screen where the player is intended to notice the title of the quest: Darkness Incarnate.
As the Hero and Walter enter the temple, the darkness is immediately apparent. A torch is quickly granted to the pair, in the tradition of horror games, but instead of the player controlling the light, the player is forced to rely on Walter for illumination. This play mechanic leads the player to rely on the torch, further cementing the symbolic importance of light. Here it is made apparent that the quest is entirely linear, which, far from limiting the player, actually places the story elements of the quest at the forefront, instead of the player focusing on loot and collectibles. The cutscenes and scripted dialogue are also executed significantly better than the rest of the game. The cutscenes appear in natural places, instead of breaking the flow of the quest. The dialogue between Walter and the Hero feels natural, and further enhances the relationship between the characters. The Hero’s responses in this section also give them emotional depth in this situation, which is something that the rest of the game lacks, but is particularly significant here, as their reactions to the following events hold importance in the quest to follow.
In the next area, a large temple room is revealed, with broken-down pillars and a bridge that the player must find a way to extend in order to cross. This room is the first appearance of the pools of darkness that appear for the rest of the game. The floor of the cavern is obscured by darkness that appears to resemble a galaxy, with bright starry points creating depth in an inky blackness that is tinged with the same purplish color that made up the barriers before. The darkness appears to drip upwards and defy gravity, which creates a sense of inherent wrongness. The dark imagery of a galaxy seems to indicate that the forces at work in the temple are those of a power far beyond the scope of normal Heroism. The purple in the darkness combined with the stars, while beautiful, makes the atmosphere seem otherworldly. This indication of power reminds me of the pulsing of the Spire in Fable II as a signpost for the sheer power of the Old Kingdom relics. Purple, in addition to these signified meanings, has also been used throughout the game in association with Logan and royalty, the game’s main enemy up to this point, which adds to the sense of danger. The unease created by this imagery is fear.
If the player attempts to go to the Sanctuary at this time, they find that it has also been invaded by the pools of darkness. Jasper is nowhere to be found, and the player is unable to switch weapons. This again alludes to the power of the darkness, in that it is able to invade the Hero’s private sanctuary, which is suggested to be associated with Old Kingdom magic and Heroic bloodlines. The darkness is able to corrupt the one safe place for the player (and is also powerful enough to interfere with the base game mechanics).
Another barrier is encountered, which is dispelled by Walter. In the next area, the Hero and Walter are assaulted by shadows similar to those found throughout the series, notably in the Shadow Court in Fable II. These shadows are assumed to be Darkness Incarnate, and come in waves that continually assault the pair. While they are fighting, there are whispers in a demonic voice that speak of darkness’s power and the inevitability of darkness. A combination of the shadows and the voice drives Walter into a panic. This is where Walter’s fear of darkness begins to rise to the surface of the plot - Walter is much more unsettled by the Darkness than the hero.
Once the small shadows are defeated, Walter is left shaken and looking for an escape. An unfortunate gust of wind blows out the torch the Hero and Walter (as well as the player) have been using as a lifeline, which throws Walter into a full panic as he attempts to desperately light the torch. The hopelessness and the psychology of the characters replicates the sense of desperate fear in the player - the player has so far been led to fear the disappearance of the light as much as the characters. The torch is re-lit, creating a brief moment of hope that is quickly shattered by the appearance of the real Darkness Incarnate. This prompts a panic attack in Walter who is wracked by despair, but the player’s innate fears are also played upon. Humans have an instinctual fear of darkness, and the concept of darkness made flesh is horrifying. Darkness incarnate represents the cold extinguishing of all energy, light, and heat - all things that humans rely upon.
The Hero and Walter are assaulted by shadows again, but this time the assault is much more psychological than physical. The whispers from the Darkness continue again, telling Walter and the Hero their greatest fears come true. these utterances include the fact that Theresa knew about the Darkness and has been using both Logan and the Hero for her own ends. This, as well as the other whispers of the Darkness, isolate both Walter and the Hero and draw them into internal torture. The player is also affected for many of the reasons mentioned previously, foremost of which are the sense of hopelessness and the lack of agency in addition to the general unsettling atmosphere. The music in this sequence is also significant. The song associated with this section (“Shadelight”) takes screeching strings and metallic sounds combined with an ominous chorus to create a distinct sense of fear and unease, while still retaining the subtlety of the art direction for the rest of the level design. The track also features a music box, a staple of the Fable series, and presents it in a slightly distorted sound that signals the player that they are meant to be afraid.
After the fight, the Darkness reappears, and Walter throws a torch at it, driving it back into the shadows. This creates a sense of hope in Walter, the Hero, and the Player: the Darkness had been established as an unstoppable force, and the concept that light can drive is back is comforting. But in the next room, despair resurfaces. Walter and the Hero are separated as Walter is evidently kidnapped by the Darkness. The Hero is forced to frantically search for their mentor, only to find that the worst has happened. Walter, who throughout the game has represented a father figure, full of strength and courage, has been broken down. His slow disintegration throughout the quest is finalized by his literal envelopment by the Darkness, the same inky, starry blackness mentioned earlier forcing him prostrate. The darkness seeps out through his eyes and mouth, showing the darkness’s permeation into his soul and the evaporation of his Strength and Will. This breaking of such a strong character is the climax of desperation for the Hero and serves to show the true strength of Darkness Incarnate.
Here the hero has to fight things that have occurred throughout the temple up to this point: statues that take the form of birds and angels. These statues have led to a sense of otherworldliness in the temple due to their religious imagery, but their corruption by the darkness further cements the power of the shadows. Creatures as pure as angels are driven to the darkness, which is indicative of the hopeless situation of the Hero. During this fight, it is unclear how the Hero will free Walter from the Darkness, as they are seemingly fighting just to buy time. The Darkness retreats, and the Hero manages to support Walter outside, but it seems that their freedom is just another way for the Darkness to play with them. Because of Walter’s blinding by the Darkness, the Hero is forced to abandon them on the steps of the temple. This reflects the first of the hero’s failures that is used against them later when the Darkness attacks Albion. Both the Hero and the Player are intended to feel a huge sense of remorse and loss at having to leave Walter, as it is implied that they are leaving Walter to die.
The Hero is left to wander aimlessly through the desert, aptly named the Shifting Sands, for they do not escape the influence of the Darkness just yet. The Darkness uses illusions to strike fear in the heart of the Hero and guilt them regarding their failures. This desert sequence is again full of hopelessness, but instead of making their way through a linear cave, the Hero is forced to walk through a seemingly endless desert without any sense of direction and no companionship. This loneliness reinforces the sense of guilt that the Hero and player have about leaving Walter to die. The illusions featured here are brief and fleeting, but include scenes from the hero’s memory and the prospect of being forced to fight Walter. These are shown using a color scheme of contrasting colors: the purple associated with the darkness and the complimentary color of the yellow-orange sand. Despite the generally pleasing visual combination of these colors, they are shown as washed out, creating a further sense of aimless discomfort.
The quest ends with the Hero passing out in the desert and being found hours later by Finn, but they are not saved by a society of light and healing: they are thrown into the tragedy-stricken city of Aurora, with Walter still unconscious from the effects of the Darkness and no foreseeable light on the horizon.