{Feature} Why A Gaslight Horror Sanitarium For DnD?

I’m often asked what led me to write LL, and the simple answer is that my friends preferred DnD 5e to other games and didn’t have the interest or time to learn another game, namely Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. So, I took the advice of Toni Morrison and wrote the book I wanted to read (and play). The book came together pretty quickly, and draws heavily on my background as a pharmacist and the experiences I’ve gathered in that profession. Allowances have been taken, of course, but there is a level of veracity I think you’ll find quite different from other setting books for Dungeons and Dragons.

Lamp’s Light Sanitarium

The classic tropes and creatures of horror are widely used within the 5th edition of the world’s most famous roleplaying game and yet few would consider it a “horror” game. Why is that? The heroes are larger than life, their actions do not generally have long-term consequences, and a horde of flesh-eating ghouls is little more than a momentary distraction. Clearly copious amounts of blood, violence, and gore do not make a game a horror game. To instill a sense of horror — or more accurately, dread — in a 5th edition game, other modalities should be explored.

Lamp’s Light as a setting focuses primarily on two things: the horrors that are inflicted upon others, in particular the mentally ill, disadvantaged, and forgotten; and the slow loss of control of oneself as psychic, intellectual, and emotional scars accumulate over a lifetime of conflict.

Within the walls of Lamp’s Light Sanitarium, you will find all manner of medical marvels. The sick will be healed, the lame made to walk again, the mute will regain their voices, and miracles are seemingly an everyday occurrence. The facility’s reputation amongst the wealthy is spotless. The staff is educated, knows their place, and most importantly are discreet. The academic elite view Lucien Prosper’s legacy as the pinnacle of research and cutting-edge treatments for maladies that cannot be cured by other means. The poor know that Lamp’s Light helps them when it is able, taking in ailing children and afflicted adults who have nowhere else to turn. The religious orders of the city publicly praise Lamp’s Light for their philanthropy, while privately condemning them for their reliance on the arcane arts of science and technology.

These wonders come at a price, one that Dr. Orson Renwick has paid countless times over his tenure. Dr. Renwick has been experimenting on his patients since shortly after the asylum opened its doors. All in the name of science, progress, and the greater good. With each success, and failure, his perception of acceptable evolved, twisted, and expanded to until no depredation was too taboo. The horrors he’s inflicted upon countless patients all began with the best intentions.

In the course of a lifetime of adventure, intrigue, and exploration our heroes face challenges that would break a normal man or woman. Luckily, they are made of sterner stuff and weather the storm to fight another day. The heroes have been a part of countless battles, exposed to effects that cause direct injury to their mind, met creatures whose very presence instills primal terror, and are targets of mind-affecting magic. Like anything exposed to the elements the small chips, cracks, and erosion wears away the outer shell until all that’s left is the exposed, raw core. The psychic scars left behind change a character.

We Leave the Light on for you

There are times in your life that you will need a sanctuary. It is my sincerest hope that Lamp’s Light is the illumination in the darkness for you.” — Lucien Prosper

Lamp’s Light Sanitarium has been providing expert and discrete medical care to upper-class citizens for much of the last century. The institution offers a variety of mundane medicinal services, but they are known for their specialization in treating manias, melancholias and dementias. Lamp’s Light has become the de rigueur convalescence home for the city’s ruling elite and merchant princes.

The sanitarium is located at the edges of the university district near many institutions of fine learning, enjoying a close association with the most respected professors, sages and antiquarians of the district.

Lamp’s Light is the product of the vision and drive of Lucien Prosper. Master Prosper was well known in the community for his philanthropy, kindness, and compassion towards those less fortunate than himself. Prosper ran Lamp’s Light tirelessly until his untimely death. Upon his passing the sanitarium fell into the able hands of Administrator Rose. In her tenure the facility’s reputation has evolved somewhat, and many former patients feel such a strong bond with one another that they continue the friendships and relationships that began while institutionalized. Administrator Rose has continued Prosper’s tradition of altruism, and the sanitarium typically has scores of patients that are being treated gratis. As is only proper, these patients are housed in their own wing of the asylum and are treated separately from the more affluent guests.

A Brief History of Lamp’s Light

Lucien Prosper was the only son of Margery and John Prosper. Margery was the only daughter of a family of nobles that had fallen on hard times, and John was a young man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps to make a name for himself. Their marriage was one of convenience and alliances. Margery’s family would receive a much-needed infusion of gold from their new son-in-law, and John would gain the last piece of respectability he’d worked so hard for: a title.

At the end of their second year of matrimony, Margery welcomed Lucien into the world. She did not survive the experience; John relegated his newborn son to a wet-nurse, and later a governess and string of tutors for his education and rearing. For his part, John Prosper worked himself to death, making certain that Lucien would never want for anything.

From the Journal of Lucien Prosper, September 10th, 1840

On my walk today with Governess Winsome we had the most discomfiting experience. As is our custom on the first day after the new moon we went to a less savory neighborhood. As nervous as these trips make my teacher, I find them exhilarating and endlessly stimulating to the mind. To see, and experience, that part of the city and see how others must live.

Halfway through our stroll we came upon a man, or woman; I can’t really say. The figure was sheathed in rags, what skin I could see was covered in filth, and his matted hair sprouted erratically from his head. All signs of gender, and species for that matter, were hidden from sight.

No sooner had we come across the unfortunate than he began to gesticulate queerly, and speak to an unseen person.

“Is he some kind of magician or prophet?”, I asked questioningly. I knew of prophets from my books, and that they sometimes saw, and spoke to, the unseen. Had we stumbled upon a holy man in the gutters?

The derisive laugh from Ms. Winsome told me more than her reply. “Hardly. Come along,” she answered curtly, “this person is broken, and there’s nothing anyone can do for them.”

Before I could ask her what she meant by “broken”, the figure turned to shouting at the invisible irritant, and grew violent. Ms. Winsome practically dragged me from the quarter, and in our wake, I heard the poor soul pounding on the ground, and ripping at his remaining hair.

From the Journal of Lucien Prosper, March 3rd, 1855

I’ve met someone, whom I dare say will be a friend and confidant for years to come. Our studies have crossed paths, but I never felt an urging to introduce myself. Fate took hold, as it often does, and while looking for a copy of the De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem I came face to face with Orson Renwick.

I have never met another with such interests! We spent the rest of the day, and evening, in deep conversation. It was as if every repressed feeling, thought, and action of the prior decade came rushing out in a torrent I could scarcely contain.

From the Journal of Lucien Prosper, May 19th, 1860

Lamp’s Light has opened and already the local constabulary recognize the expertise and assistance that we offer. Earlier today Orson and I were called to the city in regards to a “enraged lunatic, destroying everything in its path.” With all haste we answered the summons, and to our great shock found a creature of unliving construction. Renwick’s fascination overrode what sense he has, and somehow, we calmed the creature and brought it with us to the facility.

Cleaned, clothed, and with a purpose, the being has dubbed itself Gneigel, and to my shock begun construction of a wall around the grounds. Orson has posited that the being’s rampage was caused by its lack of direction and purpose. Gods help us if he loses his purpose again.

From the Journal of Lucien Prosper, July 24th, 1877

Lamp’s Light shines even brighter with our newest addition, Ms. Florence Rose. Her exuberance, patience, and inquisitive nature are a balm to the patients and staff that I’d not known was needed. She takes a great interest in the efforts of the staff to assuage the torment of our most ill guests, and through sheer kindness, compassion, and perseverance has made inroads.

In the short time since our introduction I’ve grown very fond of her, and I must say that despite our difference in ages I find myself thinking of her often, and feeling younger for it. Renwick is unimpressed with her, but I am enthralled by this lovely young woman.

From the Daily Advocate October 2nd, 1879

“The sudden death of Master Lucien Prosper shakes the community. His remains have been interred in a mausoleum on the grounds of Lamp’s Light Sanitarium, his life’s work. He leaves behind no family; only grieving friends, colleagues, and this epithet written upon his tomb. Long-time colleague and assistant, Florence Rose, has vowed to continue her mentor’s work with the patients of Lamp’s Light Sanitarium.”

I leave Lamp’s Light in the capable hands of those that toil within it.

All who have loved me, now in my passing, love those who need it most.

The Book

Lamp’s Light is a fully realized horror sourcebook for the 5th edition of the world’s most famous roleplaying game. This black and white campaign guide is evocatively illustrated with dozens of pieces of original art and clocks in at just over 200 pages.  Lamp’s Light Sanitarium is a sprawling estate beautifully detailed in ENnie award nominated hand-drawn maps by Toby Lancaster of Dark Realm Maps. The asylum is charted with six individual maps each of which has dozens of fully described rooms.

The asylum is equally at home as an oasis in an urban environment or as an idyllic country estate. The characters, themes, and setting are distinctly Victorian with Gothic and steampunk elements. Lamp’s Light Sanitarium is, above all else, a framework that can generate dozens of adventures, full campaigns, and countless hours of roleplaying. Adventure hooks are included throughout the book to fire the imagination of DMs and players.

Within the book you’ll also find two complete adventures, dozens of adventure hooks, campaign arcs to spur your imagination and unique characters unlike any you’ve seen in DnD before.

Lamp’s Light Sanitarium can be found at DriveThruRPG here for $17.99 (PDF), $27.99 (softcover + PDF), or $34.99 (hardcover + PDF). DriveThru’s international printing ensure that shipping costs around the world are affordable.

To keep up with my goings-on follow me at Twitter: @matthewdcorley

Lamp’s Light Sanitarium

**2019 ENNIE Nominee for best cartography**

Within the walls of Lamp’s Light Sanitarium, you will find all manner of medical marvels. The sick are healed, the lame walk again, and the mad regain their senses… but the cures and miracles hide a horrifying truth. Are your players ready to uncover it, and risk becoming patients themselves?

What you’ll find within this book:

  • Comprehensive optional sanity rules that incorporate both roleplaying and mechanics
  • A sprawling estate of nearly 100 rooms, all beautifully mapped and fully described
  • Two full ready-to-play adventures
  • Dozens of adventure hooks, story arcs, and campaign ideas
  • Dedicated advice on incorporating Lamp’s Light into existing campaigns from other publishers
  • Dozens of evocative NPCs, creatures, and esoteric items
  • Regular and Form-fillable PDF custom character sheets
  • Maps as jpegs and tiffs for easy VTT use

Lamp’s Light Sanitarium can be found at DriveThruRPG here for $17.99 (PDF), $27.99 (softcover + PDF), or $34.99 (hardcover + PDF). DriveThru’s international printing ensure that shipping costs around the world are affordable.

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