Horror Flora Presents: Four Horror War

Well, it’s Horror Flora’s four year anniversary, and that calls for a celebration. I’ve been planning something big for this year for, well, four years, and while starting a new job, working on a novel, and the general soul crushing misery of 2020 kept me from making it as polished as I’d like, the time has come for me to reveal 4 HORROR WAR, my not-entirely-serious pitch for a mons (re: monster catching) game. Today I’m posting a general primer for the series, and after that Horror Flora will post a new batch of monsters for it from now until Halloween. So read on to see what strangeness is in store!

The story of 4 Horror War takes place in the land of Dread, where strange creatures shape and manufacture the fears that we experience in the human world. Long ago there was a great conflict over which kinds of fears were the best, fought between four races: Walpoles, the oldest race and residents of the country of Radcliffe; Serlings, cunning inventors from the country of Bloch; Derleths, strange visitors who created the country of Machen; and Cravens, brooding, soft spoken rulers of the country of Savini.

Though at different times it looked like one horror would win out over the other, a truce was eventually declared among the four races, and they now stand united in their shared desire to create new and powerful fears. However, to both honor the struggles of their ancestors and unite together under a shared experience, the four races routinely hold mock battles with their honed Archetypal Fears (or “Arkies” for short), powerful monsters that grow stronger when trained by a fear crafter. The most famous and difficult of these mock battles is called, quite fittingly, The Four Horror War, and YOU, the player, want to be a contender. So you better start crafting your Arkies and honing them into terrifying battle monsters!

Of course, before you do that, you have to figure out what kind of Fear Crafter you are.

Walpoles were the first race to appear in the land of Dread, and pioneered the art of crafting Archetypal Fears into powerful monsters. They dress in a mishmash of vintage styles, ranging from Victorian all the way to Medieval in their attire, and often pepper their language with antiquated words and phrases. Radcliffe, their country, is filled with musty old mansions, crumbling castles, and small rural villages, all in states of decay and disrepair. Though some write them off as “corny” and “kiddy” compared to more modern Fear Crafters, the Walpoles know many ancient tricks, and can dredge up long forgotten fears to plague a modern mind.

Walpoles favor Gothic Horror Arkies.

The Walpoles dominated the land of Dread for ages without opposition, but then the Serlings came along. Science-minded and equipped with strange and horrifying technology, they were in many ways opposites of the Walpoles, and quickly rose to prominence with their vast array of new Archetypal Fears. Augmenting themselves with mechanical prosthetics and strange chemicals, Serlings are more formidable in combat than their spindly bodies make them appear, and their smooth, sterile laboratories contain all variety of weapons others would never expect. Though their influence waned as other Fear Crafters came into their own, the Serlings remain a force to be reckoned with.

Serlings favor Atomic Horror Arkies.

When exactly the Derleths came to the land of Dread is up for debate. Some say they arrived with the Serlings, others posit they came before them, and perhaps even before the Walpoles themselves. For the longest time they were a rare sight in the Land of Dread – prevalant enough to be noticed, but scarce enough in number not to be considered a threat. Little did the other races know that, while they squabbled and fought, the Derleths slowly amassed huge numbers in preparation for the end phase of the Four Horror War, where they emerged from hiding to wipe out the other three Fear Crafter nations. Thankfully, their ploy was not successful, and now the Derleths live in harmony with the others, though they remain an enigmatic species. Their homeland of Machen is a landscape with impossible features, ever shifting in geography and never sticking to what few laws of physics hold weight in the Land of Dread.

Derleths favor Cosmic Horror Arkies.

The youngest race, Cravens came to the land of Dread amid the war between the Serlings and Walpoles, and promptly drove both of their predecessors into a defensive position with their sheer brutality. Their dominance of the land of Dread was comparatively brief, though, and they lost a lot of the ground they initially gained, eventually being forced to carve out a niche in the urban hellscape of Savini. They like it there, though, and have since learned to live in peace with their neighbors, even helping the Serlings and Walpoles fend off the Derleth invasion that led to the four nation truce.

Cravens favor Slasher Horror Arkies.

Archetypal Fears

The first fear was the fear of death, and the second fear was the fear of the unknown. From those two fears, the Fear crafters created a myriad of lesser fears, each representing the core two in some specific variation. Particularly skilled Fear Crafters can turn a fear into a powerful monster – an Archetypal Fear, or Arky for short. Arkies can be broadly divided into four categories:

Gothic Horror Arkies represent fears about ancient forces and sins, the primitive world that civilization came from, and the primordial force of decay that will one day consume us all. They are creatures of rot and regression, bestial and savage, red in tooth and claw.

Atomic Horror Arkies represent fears about modern society, unchecked technological advances, and humanity’s newfound ability to drive its own ecosystem into extinction. They are creatures of mutation and experimentation, godless beings that do what they can regardless of whether they should, new lifeforms the likes of which the world was never supposed to see.

Cosmic Horror Arkies represent fears about a cold and hateful universe that is beyond the scope of human understanding, and as such beyond caring about humanity. These are creatures whose presence breaks minds and sends humans into spirals of madness, whose existence violates the rules of reality, and whose power is so far beyond humanity that we are but ants to be crushed in their wake.

Slasher Horror Arkies represent the limitless capacity for evil in the human spirit, a wickedness that existed in the past and shall continue to exist into the future as long as humans remain what they are. Mundane in some respects compared to the other horrors, these Arkies draw strength from focusing on a fear that is innately personal to human beings, as every person was born with the potential to unleash the carnal acts of violence and cruelty these monsters represent.

Arkies need their development nurtured by a skilled Fear Crafter to reach their full potential, and can even evolve into new variations of their archetype given the right stimulus (though an evolved Arky is not necessarily stronger – instead it simply weaponizes its core fear a bit differently). While many Fear Crafters will specialize in one of the four horrors, or even just with one specific Arky family, the most powerful Fear Crafters can use many different Arkies, storing the monsters in skull-shaped totems called Yorricks.

As a young Fear Crafter, you get to choose from one of eight different Arkies from your home country (Gothic Horror Arkies for the nation of Radcliffe, Atomic Horror Arkies for the nation of Bloch, Cosmic Horror Arkies for the nation of Machen, and Slasher Horror Arkies for the nation of Savini), then set out to create and train as many more as you can manage, all with the hopes of becoming a talented enough Fear Crafter to compete in – and maybe even win! – the Four Horror War.

Game Mechanics

I’m calling this a “hypothetical” game because I am not a game designer and do not have the math minded brain to become one, so it’s incredibly unlikely you will ever actually play 4 Horror War in the future (and the fact that it treads some fine lines between fair use and copyright infringement is also a factor). But if it somehow did manifest, here are some rough ideas for how it would play:

You have a team of up to sixteen arkies, eight of which can share the battlefield at a time. Each side of the battle has two primary positions – the front lines, where close range fighters should be placed, and the rear, where long range fighters should be placed. You can have up to four Arkies in each line, eight out in total, with the remaining eight waiting in reserve in case one of your Arkies dies. A fight lasts until one opponent’s Arkies are all dead (don’t worry, death is a slap on the wrist for archetypal monsters), and whoever has the last Arky/ies standing is the victor!

There is a loose type system – Gothic, Atomic, Cosmic, and Slasher are our “elements,” each of which resists attacks of their own element. Gothic Arkies are weak to Atomic attacks, and Atomic Arkies are likewise weak to Gothic attacks. Cosmic and Slasher Arkies are similar – Cosmic weak to Slasher attacks, Slasher weak to Cosmic ones. Attacks are also divided into physical attacks – i.e. punching, biting, etc. – and “arcane” attacks, such as evil auras, psychic assaults, laser beams, etc. Some Arkies also have special gimmicks to change up battle, and every Arkie has at least one signature attack unique to them.

Arkies have health pools (i.e. how many points of health they have to lose before they die) and defense stats (i.e. how much damage per hit they nullify, if any). They also have a cunning stat that determines how often they score critical hits, a speed stat to determine when and how often they hit in battle, an evasion stat that’s determined by their cunning and speed stats, and a teamwork stat that allows them to assist and be assisted by their team-mates in combat. One Arky cannot win the game alone – you need to synergize your team to reach victory.

Since mons games are, by their nature, kind of the same as virtual pet games, you have options to interact with your Arkies outside of battle, conversing with them as your explore the world and progress the story, as well as giving them food and gifts. These social interactions not only help improve your Arky’s stats, but are required for certain evolutions, so don’t neglect to care for your Arkies!

Story Mode, Post Game, and New Game +

So, to reiterate, this is a hypothetical game, not one that will ever be made. Got it?

…BUT IF IT WERE REAL-

When you create your character, your choice of player species – Walpole, Serling, Derleth, or Craven – in turn chooses which country you start in, and what families of Arkies you get to start with. Walpoles begin in the land of Radcliffe and get to choose one of the eight different Gothic Horror Arky starters to work with. Serlings live in Bloch and choose from the Atomic Horror Arkies, Derleths live in Machen and choose from the Cosmic Horror Arkies, and Cravens live in Savinia and choose from the Slasher Horror Arkies.

There are two powerful Fear Crafters to beat in each country – eight in total. You begin with one Arky in your homeland and slowly gather members of the other families native to that land until you have eight total, which you can then raise up to defeat the two Fear Crafters who represent your country. After that, you can travel to any of the other three countries, adding eight new Arkies and defeating two more Fear Crafters in each one, until you’ve made a name for yourself in all four countries of the Land of Dread, at which point you can fight in the official Four Horror War Tournament against the most powerful Fear Crafters in the land. By the end of the story mode, you will have one Arky of each of the 32 families, 16 of which you get to keep on your active team, 8 of which you can have out on the field at a time (four in the front lines, four in the back).

In the main story mode, you only have the opportunity to get one Arky from each family, and evolution is likewise permanent, making it impossible to train every Arky at once before beating the game. However, in the postgame you not only get an additional 16 slots on your active team (a total of 32), but the ability to duplicate Arkies you’ve already had, allowing you to train them all and play with some really weird team combinations (some of which may have special group attacks – for example, get all of the Kaiju Arkies on your team and they can pull a Destroy All Monsters style beatdown). There would likewise be a lot of post-game content, from side stories to new Fear Crafters who present a real challenge for seasoned players!

In addition, beginning a new game after you’ve beaten the story mode allows you to choose from ANY of the 32 families when picking your starter, regardless of which species you choose to be, and gives you access to the Arky cloning machine from the beginning, allowing you to play through with the team of your dreams.

So, now that you have a rough idea of what this hypothetical game would play like, let’s dive into the main attraction: THE MONSTERS!

…well, ok, there’s a lot of them, so you’ll have to read… oh, I don’t know, 32 other posts, give or take. Strap in!

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