This world is older than any of you know and, contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons walked the earth and made it their home…their Hell. In time they lost their purchase on this reality and the way was made for the mortal animals, for Man. What remains of the Old Ones are vestiges, certain magics, certain creatures…and Vampires
A quote from Lovecraft perhaps? Maybe it’s from August Derleth or even Clark Ashton Smith?
No, the above is actually Joss Whedon and from The Harvest, the second episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While the show was definitely about hip young people slaying modern demons (both of the life stage and supernatural kind) bits and pieces of this history would show up over the course of the series, especially in the seventh season, and would play a major role in the spin-off series Angel.
I find it interesting that what many gamers would consider a core swords and sorcery trope is at the core of Buffy. The show is very modern in its time period, its characters, and its sensibilities yet its core mythology, from the pilot on, is one that has great deal in common with the weird tale. Certainly, Whedon admits to being a horror fan. However, in the interviews I’ve seen it’s horror of a movie sort and it is a rare film, in my experience, that has any mythos much less one with a horrific demon haunted past. That said, despite its similarity it does miss some of the elements in the Lovecraftian past. While the Buffyverse is a universe where the struggle against evil never ends and most characters will eventually fail (an idea more obvious in Angel than in Buffy) it is still more heroic than fatalism. The heroism is in the struggle and even failure can be a defeat of evil.
Watching the entirety of both series (itself an enjoyable pastime) with a notebook in your lap could be a great way to “design” a setting for a game, especially one of the very flexible retro-clone like Swords & Wizardry.
No, I’m not saying you play S&W in the show’s modern setting (although that could be interesting). There already exists an excellent role-playing game for it. However, imagine taking the open to this post and all the various references to ancient demons, cults, religions, and magics through out the two series. Then set it among the ruins of Atlantis or some other pre-Sumerian civilization or even in a Hercules/Xena ancient world.
I suspect we might start seeing bits and pieces of A Demon Haunted Past showing up here every now and then.