He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Balzu: A Dark Fantasy

Balzu is a custom world mod for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion that has been strongly influenced by Ravenloft, Silent Hill, Bram Stoker's Dracula and H.P.Lovecraft. Balzu aims to create a deep roleplaying experience by providing you with a rich and detailed dark fantasy setting to explore, memorable characters to interact with, and engaging quests to complete. With Balzu, I hope to improve upon vanilla Oblivion in several other important ways as well. Since this mod is still in development, this document should be considered a design document, outlining the mod's goals, the gameplay changes I would like to implement, and the current progress or milestones that I have achieved.

Jump to:

  1. Latest Updates
  2. Durs: The World of Balzu
  3. Gameplay Changes
  4. Character Generation
  5. Enhanced NPC AI
  6. Quests
  7. Scaling
  8. Custom Content
  9. Design Methodology
  10. Progress
  11. Release Date
  12. Media
  13. Inspiration
  14. Credits

Latest Updates

July 22, 2011. Huge Update!

As you've probably noticed by now, I've given the site a complete overhaul. It's not completely done, but I've been working on it for over a week solid and I'm ready to take a bit of a break from it. (Eventually, Balzu will get it's own skin, like the Oblivion and Fallout 3 skins.)

In other news, for those of you who don't know, Balzu how has a dedicated forum and wiki. Drop by the forum and introduce yourself! The wiki is read only right now (sorry) so that I can focus on developing the lore/world. Once it has reached a mature state, I will open it up to other Balzu devs so they can make their own contributions in the areas they specialize in.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. You can now download the early beta here -> Balzu. Be forewarned: it is in a very embryonic state, and most of it is going to change between now and official release. Nevertheless, it might be of interest to a few of you. :)

February 2, 2011. Groundhog day.

Development has been in fits and starts over the last six months but I'm finally back into the full swing of things and armed with a couple of new tools. (Both courtesy of JRoush.)

Balzu will now be using the Oblivion Magic Extender (OBME) to create custom spell effects. This will greatly enhance the magic experience in Balzu which is of a somewhat different character from vanilla OB. I've already used OBME to replace my existing scripts for custom creature summons and poisonous bite attacks. The OBME versions were child's play to set up and are more flexible than my original versions. I have a huge list of effects I would like to create, many of which are based on Balzu's enhanced AI component. Expect to see more developments in this area in the future.

The second, and even more exciting addition is the ability to add custom actor values via JRoush's AddActorValues script extension. This nifty little extension has tremendously simplified the implementation of my custom AI and probably cut development time in half for this part of the mod. Previously, all of my custom AI attributes, disposition indexes, player characteristics, etc., had been implemented as script variables and required script-intensive database storage and retrieval along with several custom function scripts. Now they can be implemented almost as easily as vanilla actor values with a handful of functions, used as dialogue and quest conditions, etc. Amazing!

I've also decided to scrap the menu-based persuasion system demonstrated in the videos for a more organic and immersive dialogue-based system. Now, all of the persuasion techniques will be available via dialogue choices tailored specifically for the individual you are attempting to persuade. No more generic taunts or threats: now everything you say will fit the actor and context you find yourself in.

Additionally, you will now be able to track your Piety and Impiety stats (which complement the Fame and Infamy stats from vanilla OB) in the stats tab of your character menu. (Again, courtesy of JRoush's AAV.) Pious NPCs will now respond favorably toward players who engage in 'good deeds' and negatively toward players who act 'irreligiously'. Just one more dynamic of Balzu's Luminous AI™.

Additional information about Balzu's AI overhaul and immersive persuasion system can be found here: Luminous AI in Balzu.

Durs: The World of Balzu

The world of Durs, the setting of Balzu, is a world embroiled in violence and conflict. Civil war, plague, crime, and corruption are only the most obvious threats facing the player when they begin the game. With the Empire crumbling, the Church wallowing in corruption, and bands of lawless knights and brigands controlling the highways, many people have turned to other powers seeking redress.

The more sophisticated--urban peasants, merchants, scholars, and nobility--are turning to mystery cults, new religions promising protection and salvation from the turmoil and uncertainty of the times in the worship of strange new gods; rural peasants, on the other hand, seeing the bankruptcy of state religion, return to the old ways and the old gods and the practice of witchcraft, the religion of their elders.

But not all power is spiritual in Durs. Seeing an opportunity for gain, necromancers have turned the summoning of spirits of departed loved ones into a full-fledged racket, while other wizards, diabolists, work on their own, or in small covens, seeking the power that conjured demons can bestow upon them. The schools and universities abound with cults and secret societies and alchemists ply their trade with greater boldness and ambition. Companies of warwitches, shrugging off the shackles of an enfeebled Empire, have set themselves up as freelance mercenaries for hire, unleashing the terrible forces of nature in exchange for fame and gold.

But humans aren't the only monsters in Durs. Bands of humanoids, once pushed deep into the wilderness, grow bolder day by day, encroaching on human communities, sacking and enslaving their populations to serve as slaves or livestock deep in the bowels of the earth and the vast expanses of lawless wilderness. At night, the undead grow bolder, no longer lurking in the shadows, but walking the streets with brazen indifference, more than a match for local authorities and terrified citizens.

Thrust into this chaotic world, where civilization itself seems to hang in the balance, it is up to the player to decide how best to live and survive. Balzu is a mod for mature players and does not flinch from addressing mature themes and dark subject matter, but it is intended to appeal to all types of roleplayers, whether they prefer to roleplay paragons or libertines. As in real life, players may choose to champion the causes of the poor, downtrodden and afflicted or impose their will on others less fortunate than themselves. In the chaotic conditions of life on Durs, both types of players will find ample opportunity to indulge in their own preferred style of play and a unique narrative experience.

Gameplay Changes Overview

The main ways I hope to improve the vanilla experience can be broken down into the following categories:

Balzu is being designed with an eye on compatibility in order to leverage the strengths of as many existing gameplay-changing mods as possible, including most realism/immersion mods, magic and combat overhauls, texture and mesh replacers, and other mods so that you can continue to enjoy the kind of gameplay that matches your personal taste and style. Balzu does make some pretty extensive changes to the way other actors (especially NPCs) behave, however, so certain mods are likely to be incompatible. Persuasion overhauls and other mods that make changes to the way the disposition mechanic works are likely going to be unusable. Balzu will use it's own enhanced AI to duplicate and extend the benefits of these mods, however, so you don't need to worry about missing out on any of these features.

Certain mods, which depend on vanilla lore and content, of course, will not be compatible, but should not interfere with the mod. Mods like Unique Landscapes, Expanded Cities, OOO, FCOM, the Race Balancing Project, or any other mod which changes vanilla races, classes, birthsigns, leveled lists, locations, NPCs, factions, or quests will not be usable with Balzu but will not harm it.

More specific details about the world of Balzu and the previewed gameplay changes follow.

The Balzu Character Generation Process

One of the main goals of Balzu is to provide the player with greater control over the character generation process so that you can create exactly the kind of character that you want to create without worrying about whether or not you are creating an 'optimal' build. The changes to the Balzu character generation process fall into Races, Birthsigns, Classes, Traits, Perks, and Origins.


[Status: Incomplete (10 race definitions outlined but appearances, etc., need to be tweaked still)]

First, and most importantly, the current build of Balzu does not support non-human races (whether or not it will at a later date is still undecided). The main reason for this hinges on a design decision: Balzu is meant to be scary (at least, scarier than Oblivion) and one way to help achieve this is by making all non-human races really and truly non-human. Non-human races in Balzu are sufficiently different from their Tamrielic counterparts to be unpredictable and dangerous, but also somewhat mysterious. Balzu does support a variety of human ethnic groups with their own history and character so there are still plenty of options to choose from.

The second difference between vanilla races and races in Balzu is that races exist purely for role-playing and cosmetic purposes. Balzu avoids a min/maxing mentality by avoiding racial abilities and attribute differences. All racial attributes will be the same for all races so that you don't feel compelled to play one race over another simply because you want to be a mage or a fighter. Attribute changes, skill bonues and abilities are handled through new character gen mechanics which will be available to all races equally, so if you want to duplicate the skills and attributes of a vanilla race you can. (Though you won't be able to access identical abilities, as those in Balzu are geared toward a more realistic and 'human' range of powers.)

The foregoing does not mean that your experience as a particular race, or your encounters with NPCs of a particular race, will be bland and generic: NPCs in Balzu will have attributes and skills appropriate to their racial background and react toward members of other races according to the mod's lore so that encounters with them will always feel 'right'. Ultimately, if you really feel that your character deserves attributes and skills befitting your race, you can always choose them from the Traits and Perks menus. Having powerful, nomadic barbarians for parents doesn't mean you can't play a sickly but powerful spell-caster. Conversely, it also doesn't mean that NPCs won't still treat you like an uncivilized barbarian.


[Status: Incomplete (small and large icons completed for 13 signs)]

Balzu also handles birthsigns differently from vanilla Oblivion. In vanilla Oblivion, birthsigns are remarkable, inexplicable magical powers that players possess purely by virtue of being born under a particular star. In Balzu, birthsigns are handled more like real astrological signs but with an added twist. At low levels they will act like character traits, influencing your starting attributes and skills in the same way that astrological signs are purported to influence your character, inclinations, and talents in the real world. Additionally, you will notice that some NPCs react better or worse toward you based on the compatibility of your signs. These are real differences observable in ordinary people that will not stretch your imagination to untenable limits.

But birthsigns are not limited to these initial differences and do have significant consequences later on. As your character advances in level, your birthsigns will level with you, providing you with additional benefits (and disadvantages!) as you 'grow' into your full potential. The particular benefits and handicaps that you acquire will be based in part on your decisions: each sign has both a 'light' and a 'dark' side, so the particular benefits you acquire will depend on your fame and infamy. As you grow into your sign, you will notice that others react more strongly toward you as the compatibility (or incompatibility) of your signs becomes more pronounced. And, unlike vanilla Oblivion, high-level NPCs in Balzu can be expected to possess the same range of birthsign abilities as your character, making them meaningful for every character.


[Status: Incomplete (36 class definitions but no icons)]

Classes are about the only thing in Balzu that will operate much as they do in vanilla Oblivion, leaving it up to you to decide how the influence of specializations and major and minor skills will affect you via your preferred leveling mod. In spite of this, the classes have be redesigned to one extent or another to better capture the flavor and logic behind the Balzu universe. Be warned: the Balzu equivalent of a vanilla class may have different class skills, attributes, or even a different specialization, so be on the lookout for these differences before settling on a class. Balzu also offers a number of classes not available in vanilla Oblivion tailored specifically for the Balzu universe.


[Status: Complete]

Traits put a new spin on old-school attribute and skill point allocation. Vanilla Oblivion does not allow you to set your own starting attributes and skills, but determines them for you via your race, class, and birthsign decisions. Balzu allows you to make these allocations yourself via the selection of traits, which are personality quirks or physical characteristics which make you better or worse suited for certain kinds of actions. Traits work like abilities which fortify or drain the associated stat and are customizable down to single digits, which should appeal to perfectionists and control freaks. Choosing the 'Muscular' trait, for example, will raise your Strength, while choosing the 'Psychic Insensitive' trait will lower your Mysticism skill. Traits will not allow you to modify a skill or attribute above the maximum value you could have achieved using vanilla races and classes (50 for attributes or 40 for skills) or lower a stat below 1. This was done to preserve game balance and avoid potential problems with in-game calculations. The traits mechanic is fully compatible with Abo's Realistic Leveling but has not been tested with other mods.


[Status: Incomplete]

Perks in Balzu operate much like they do in Fallout 3, allowing you to choose from a limited range of abilities and handicaps which are not covered by the traits mechanic but which fall within the purview of realistic human abilities. Examples of perks include things like Rake (or Coquette, if you play a female character), which modifies the disposition of NPCs based on their gender (and their attitudes toward sex in general), Robust, which grants limited resistance to poison and disease, and Rage, which allows you to go on a blood-thirsty rampage when you are feeling particularly threatened. Negative perks, or Flaws, may be selected as well. These impose some sort of penalty on your character but provide you will additional 'points' for spending on other perks.


[Status: Not started]

Origins are prepackaged (or custom-built) backgrounds for your character that determine things like your starting location, social status, money and equipment, house, mount, family, companions, familiars, allies, patrons, enemies, curses, and quests. Origins supplement the main quest mechanic of vanilla Oblivion with a personalized mechanic which gives immediate color and direction to your game and which can be changed every time you play. Origins serve as 'subplots' as well as main quest delayers, giving you something to do other than busy-work until you feel ready to tackle Balzu's main quest-line head-on. Although prepackaged origins are planned for a seamless integration between quest and character, do-it-yourself origins are also possible via the origin menu by selecting individual components. Your choice of components is then used to determine appropriate quests.


Spells are acquired somewhat differently in Balzu, making the acquisition of new spells more of a role-playing mechanic and less of a 'shopping' mechanic than in vanilla Oblivion. Spell merchants, instead of having a wide range of generic spells available for sale to anyone with money, or through a merely formal application for membership in a guild, will come in many different flavors.

Some merchants will have to be sought out in remote locations and will have only a limited range of specialized spells available, representing their own interests and pursuits. Other merchants, who may be more accessible, will only share spells with players who agree to become their student and complete quests in exchange for access to occult knowledge. Still other spells may only be found in spell tomes in remote and dangerous locations or learned from non-human spell casters living on otherworldly planes. This makes the acquisition of spells a major role-playing incentive for spellcasters. Players may even come to know the names of famous magicians through their spells, many of which combine multiple effects in a single spell, (not all of them beneficial).

Balzu aims to be as compatible as possible with spell overhaul mods by changing only the means players use to acquire spells and the spells themselves. Mods which change how magic works should be compatible in general (though it is uncertain at this point exactly how Chargeable Spells will fit in), and mods which add new spells could be made compatible with small patches to add the spells to Balzu merchants and leveled lists. Since I use mods like Sorcery's Toll and Fizzle myself, it is essential that these kinds of mods be compatible with Balzu.

Enhanced NPC AI and Dialogue Options

This discussion has been moved to its own page: Luminous AI in Balzu.

Branching Questlines and Origin Stories in Balzu

In Balzu, I hope to implement two changes to vanilla quests: true branching quests which actually do change at key points depending on the player's choices in previous stages and Origin stories, which are prepackaged quests selected through the character generation process which work like subplots in a traditional film or novel, providing the player with a ready set of allies, enemies, resources, and objectives which are independent from the main quest. (Companion quests are also planned for important companions which work the same way as the player's origin stories.)

Most Vanilla quests employ a very linear approach to quest design. Quests in Vanilla Oblivion play out much like traditional stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. For Balzu, I am experimenting with a different design which could best be described as 'nodal': quests branch based on existing conditions, most of which are created by the player through his or her decisions and actions. Instead of quests proceding linearly through stages, each quest is composed of a network of mini-quests with fewer individual stages in each one. When conditions change (say an NPC dies, or the player decides to keep the powerful magic item for themselves) a new quest is selected based on the new conditions. Quests in Balzu will play much more like choose-your-own adventures than linear stories. (That's the theory, anyway; I haven't really had time to implement it yet and test it in practice.)

Scaling: Place-centric and Randomized

Environments in Balzu take a place-centric approach to leveled lists but have an added element of randomness. You are more likely to encounter powerful monsters the further you go from civilization, in the darkest woods and the deepest dungeons, making civilized areas relatively 'safer' to adventure in. But the random factor means that there is always a chance that a high-level monster will decide to go on a rampage, or that the thug demanding your money in a dark alley is twelve levels higher than you, so you can never be entirely sure what you are up against. Conversely, you might just stumble across another adventurer in the lower levels of a dungeon who is willing to help you carry back a cart full of loot, providing you with a bit of added security in a dangerous locale.

To some degree, many (but not all) monsters will scale with you. The amount which a monster scales varies depending on the monster and the location in which they are encountered. This means that you are more likely to encounter higher level monsters in more remote locations and lower level monsters in less remote locations with monsters that scale higher in remoter locales and monsters that scale lower in closer locales. Almost all monsters will eventually cap, however, meaning that at some point you will be able to beat almost any opponent. The only monsters which will not have a guarranteed cap are unique NPCs, other-dimensional beings, and certain other 'boss' monsters.

I must point out that Balzu aims to provide a slightly more challenging experience than vanilla Oblivion by increasing somewhat mob spawn counts. This was done not only to make the mod more challenging for solo players who like the challenge (like myself), but also to make the game more appropriate for players who enjoy adventuring with companions. Current plans are to increase the number of opponents you typically face by about fifty percent. (Final frame rates may impact this number.)

Custom Content

One of my great ambitions in creating this mod is my desire to add custom creatures, tilesets, architecture, hair, clothing, and innumerable other pieces of 'clutter'. Although early releases of the mod will probably be light on the custom content, you should expect to see new content appearing as new areas of the mod are developed (and my skills improve). The current build includes a custom shed, chicken coop, feed trough, wall-mounted shelves, open crates/boxes, and a lamp hook.

Creature Diversity

One of the most appealing aspects of creating a new world is the possibility of populating it with new and unusual creatures. Although each new creature is a significant undertaking, as I know from experience, at least one custom creature (the Shrieking Bolete) will be added to Balzu, and several additional creatures are being planned. These additions are likely to appear later on, when the basic groundwork for the mod has already been laid.

Of course, existing custom creatures, like Mr. Siika's fabulous creations (farm animals, rabbits, foxes, bats, etc.) and the giant spider (courtesy of elveon, Malo, mikal33, and AlienSlof) are already included! I am also planning on looking into Vacuity's Spirits and Ephemerals, which fit perfectly into the Balzu milieu.

The Devil is in the Details: Balzu's Design Methodology

Balzu is being designed for depth as opposed to breadth, so each release will expand a little on an already highly detailed and more or less 'complete' core. The world of Durs is being created by hand, without the use of the heightmap editor or region generator, which simply cannot reproduce the same quality of work achievable by an experienced landscaper. All of the trees, rocks, flora, spawns, vertex painting and path nodes are being hand-placed to maximize the richness and variety of the setting and the intelligence of the pathing. (Path nodes are generated but extensively modified.) No more vast, empty terrains thinly decorated with poorly placed rocks and trees and arbitrarily generated path nodes. Each release of Balzu will be complete as is, expanding on the territory and quests encompassed by the previous version.

Why is Balzu being designed this way? Having worked on a couple of other large-scale conversions, I know from experience how overwhelming the workload is. Heightmaps and regions can go a long way toward achieving 'good enough' landscapes, but for real quality environments hands-on detailing and tweaking cannot be avoided. I found I spent as much time tweaking the generated terrain as I would have spent creating it entirely from scratch so it seemed pointless to waste my time generating it. The other advantage to hand-generating landscape comes from the discipline and restraint it imposes on the modder: by limiting yourself to what you can do by hand, you avoid creating massive landscapes that can never be adequately completed and you are forced to focus on quality instead of quantity.

The 'Rule of Two'

Balzu is being designed under the 'rule of two', which means, essentially, that my goal is to double Vanilla content in areas where the added content will improve significantly the feel of the game. This means, for example, that the distance between towns and dungeons is being doubled, but not the number of dungeons and towns, which is adequate. The additional wilderness space between locations should improve the feeling that one is actually travelling and exploring and help to eliminate the feeling that one is stumbling across a new ruin behind every rock. The quality of the towns and dungeons themselves can be improved by doubling the number of habitations or levels, and the number of inhabitants. Additionally, as mentioned above, you will find that the NPCs have significantly more to say.

Other aspects of the game, of course, will not follow this rule. The amount of treasure, for example, is not going to double, but will, in fact, feel harder to come by because of the increased distances between locations and the added number and intelligence of the occupants. Another area I would like very much to follow the rule of two is in the number of creature types, a major focus of the mod.


The current internal alpha version of the mod encompasses 100 exterior cells which are about 80% complete, an inn with a working innkeeper/merchant and a spell merchant, a mounted guard on patrol and a working prison (though the guard tower isn't complete), 3 farms, a smithy, 3 cottages, and several additional NPCs. The initial release will probably cover an area of about 100 exterior cells, ten interiors, a score of NPCs with hundreds of lines of (unvoiced) dialogue, one small and one medium-sized quest, and a couple of dungeons. Estimated play time is about 2 hours.

All of the work on this mod is being done by myself excepting those credited below.

Color Key Codes
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
Job Breakdown (approximate)
Heightmap 15%
Landscape Textures 15%
Static Clutter and Vertex Painting 40%
Ingredient and Havok Clutter 15%
Path Grids 15%
Cell Map
-4,7 -3,7 -2,7 -1,7 0,7 1,7 2,7 3,7 4,7 5,7
-4,6 -3,6 -2,6 -1,6 0,6 1,6 2,6 3,6 4,6 5,6
-4,5 -3,5 -2,5 -1,5 0,5 1,5 2,5 3,5 4,5 5,5
-4,4 -3,4 -2,4 -1,4 0,4 1,4 2,4 3,4 4,4 5,4
-4,3 -3,3 -2,3 -1,3 0,3 1,3 2,3 3,3 3,3 5,3
-4,2 -3,2 -2,2 -1,2 0,2 1,2 2,2 3,2 4,2 5,2
-4,1 -3,1 -2,1 -1,1 0,1 1,1 2,1 3,1 4,1 5,1
-4,0 -3,0 -2,0 -1,0 0,0 1,0 2,0 3,0 4,0 5,0
-4,-1 -3,-1 -2,-1 -1,-1 0,-1 1,-1 2,-1 3,-1 4,-1 5,-1
-4,-2 -3,-2 -2,-2 -1,-2 0,-2 1,-2 2,-2 3,-2 4,-2 5,-2
Races 0 0 0 0 10 0
Classes 0 0 0 0 36 0
Birthsigns 0 0 0 13 0 0
Traits 58 0 0 0 0 0
Perks 1 0 0 0 0 0
Flaws 1 0 0 0 0 0
Origins 0 0 0 0 0 0
Domestic Interiors 1 1 2 1 2 3
Towns 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dungeons 0 0 0 0 1 1
NPCs* 0 0 0 4 3 1
Companions** 0 0 0 0 0 0
Factions 0 0 0 0 0 0
Quests 0 0 0 0 0 1
Scripts ? ? ? ? ? ?
Models 6 0 2 0 0 0
Textures 4 0 0 0 0 0
Tilesets 0 0 0 0 0 0
Creatures 0 1 0 0 0 0
Lore Books 1 0 0 0 0 0

Release Date

There is no planned final release date for Balzu. It will continue to grow for as long as I maintain interest in the project. I do plan on releasing it in stages, however, so that small areas of the total world space with a limited number of quests will be available in each release.



The persuasion overhaul videos are now out-of-date. New videos will be posted in the near future.

Persuasion Overhaul, revision 1 Shows a slightly expanded version of Balzu's persuasion overhaul. All of the persuasion techniques are activated through the dialog menu, and each technique has a different chance of succeeding based on your skills and attributes, the NPC's skills and attributes, and the context of the attempt.

Go Ahead, Make My Day Shows the taunting mechanic at work. Note that these NPCs have a 0 disposition toward the actor to begin with since I haven't written the code to initialize reasonable default values for the five indexes yet. Players will likely have to try a few times before they get actors to attack them in the release version.

A Jaunt Down a Country Road This shows the starting location of the player in the first release: a quiet rural area. It could be compared to the Weye area outside the IC. There is an inn, blacksmith, county church, and a couple of farms and cottages.

A Wilderness Encounter This shows a bit of the wilderness. Exterior cells in Durs have up to 5 times as many references as vanilla Oblivion. That's a lot of extra trees, shrubs, rocks, and flora! Hopefully, it won't kill the framerates too much. May still need to be tweaked to optimize performance.

Character gen overview video This video shows a quick overview of the character generation process in Balzu. Not all of the features have been fully implemented yet, but it gives you a good idea how it will work in the end. The Traits selection process (where you edit your attributes and skills) is complete.


Balzu is a WIP, so the screenshots may not perfectly reflect the release version. Note that I'm using Ampol's Low ENB settings shader to achieve the lighting and Ampol's landscape textures in some of the early screenshots, and RPG-BlackDragon's trees. Weather is achieved via Storms and Sound, and window lighting and chimney smoke is achieved via Animated Window Lighting System and Chimneys. Your version will look different if you use different mods (or no mods), but none of them are required to play Balzu. These mods just help me achieve the look I'm going for and come highly recommended if you're not using them.

A footbridge with the inn across the river. The inn at night and an outdoor table. A cozy inn with tables and chairs.
A list of persuasion options in the dialogue menu. The actor responds with an appropriate comment. The actor's Disposition is shown in the top left corner.
A rustic cottage by the river. Overlooking a ravine. The moon over a rocky forest.
A Shrieking Bolete in Bolete Cave. Another view of the Shrieking Boletes in Bolete Cave. Bats in a cave.
Venomous spiders are a real threat in Balzu. A small cave overgrown with roots housing a pile of bones. A cosy camp in the hills.
Mounted ranger on a country road. A peaceful evening on the river bank. Bridge to the Shining Shingle Inn.
Disturbing the livestock at dusk. The light in the chapel is always on. A graveyard is not where you want to be at night in Balzu.
Looking down on the chapel. A gloomy day. Balzu has lush environments to explore.
A break in the woods. Climbing the hills that rise above the forest. Stumbling across a cave in the hills.
The animals are not amused by the torchlight. A rustic setting. Exploring the woods as night falls.


The concept behind Balzu comes from many sources, but here are a few of my chief influences: the late middle ages during the time of the Black Plague; the late medieval painter Bosch; Edgar Allan Poe, H.P.Lovecraft and Dracula, by Bram Stoker; the PnP D&D dark fantasy setting Ravenloft; and Silent Hill. Of course, my idebtedness to J.R.R.Tolkien and to Bethesda's Elder Scrolls games should go without saying.


Credits are alphabetical. My apologies to anyone I may have missed.

Last updated July 22, 2011

© 2009-2011 Dave Finch