Old Gods of Appalachia (often called Old Gods Pod or OGA by its fans) is a narrative fiction anthology podcast that shares a mythic Appalachian setting amongst its stories. And now, it’s getting a tabletop role-playing game, after years of development.
I was a listener back when the podcast first dropped in early 2019, and as a self-proclaimed mountain witch, I immediately fell in love. I grew up in Virginia, I’ve spent time in those mountains, and I know some of these horrors are not eldrich, but are simply haunted realities of living in a space wonderful and terrible. But for the lowland folks, maybe eldrich horror is easier to accept. We’re just hillbillies, after all.
I was lucky enough to get a look at some of the images from this hit podcast’s first major publishing endeavour, and I’m excited to share them with you, along with some details about the RPG, which is being published by Monte Cook Games, and uses the Cypher system as a game engine.
(Please consider this a content warning for folk horror images.)
Old Gods of Appalachia takes place in an alternate early 1900s Appalachia, rooted in its history but not entirely beholden to it. In this world, “the Appalachian Mountains were made a prison for beings immeasurably dark. But time works its way even on mountains, and over the millennia the mountains have grown worn and the prison walls thin. Industrialisation has prompted us to dig into these walls, weakening them further and exposing cracks where the influence of the Inner Dark can slip through.”
In the Mines
“Small towns and isolated settlements are under the influence of mining and rail companies, some of which have felt the corrupt touch of the Dark. And the encroachment has also riled beings of the Green — things we might not consider evil, but can definitely be predatory.”
This is the setting — officially called an “Alternate Appalachia of the 1920s and ‘30s,” in which players attempt to understand the unknowable and protect their family and communities from both the modern industrial world and the creatures that inhabit the land.
The Grey Ladies
The D20 Cypher system used for this game is also the rail underneath Monte Cook Games’ Numenera and The Strange. It’s designed to be easy to learn, with a focus on narrative and character building over numbers. Character creation is, likewise, driven by the story, and some examples given include “I am an Inspired Speaker who Sees Beyond”, and “I am a Creative Explorer who Speaks for the Land.”
Looking over the quick start I was given to review, there are still things like stat blocks and alignments within the build, so there will be a lot of need to reference the book during gameplay. Combat gets a good chunk of space, but this is a bare bones piece, and I’m excited to dig into some of the less mechanical parts of this book.
One of the reasons I’m so excited to dig into this book is because it takes a lot of traditional Appalachian myths and folklore and gives then a new vision. For example, there are Witch Bottles described in the quickstart, which (properly crafted and applied) is an old neighbour trick for making a fence around your property.
Appalachian folklore is a mix of Irish, Scottish, Native, West African, and German traditions, something that is incredibly unique and strange, emerging and establishing itself very quickly in the 1700s and 1800s.
She Is the Light
But besides being rooted in tradition, there are monsters like this! A ball lightning spirit that appears to be a giant abomination, haunting a forest like a bad dream. This isn’t the kind of monster in my folk stories. But even the ghost tales I grew up with and learned as a young adult become playable encounters and villains that lurk around every corner.
The Old Gods of Appalachia Kickstarter runs through May 6, and was funded in 11 minutes — with half a million raised in its first six hours. It’s backed by a prolific and well-respected company, and OGA has a proven track record with delivering stories… so I’m not worried about fulfilment in this case. There is an introductory primer to setting and rules of the system available here, and on Monte Cook Games.