I’ve always enjoyed images of darkness and light in RPGs (and stories in general): old mansions blanketed in shady light, a shady forest that is interspersed with golden shafts of light, or the ghost of an old king turned into a vengeful shade that needs to be brought into the light. Shade in particular is an interesting liminal space between darkness and light. It’s suggestive of a crack between our normal categories in life. It reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s writings, such as Neverwhere, or RPGs such as Don’t Rest Your Head. Works like these suggest that more mysterious worlds are just behind the crack in the door.
Don’t Rest Your Head is a game where you play somebody who’s been suffering from insomnia so long, that the normal veil of everyday life is lifting, and they’re slowly entering a mystical world that lies just beyond ours. A world where you pay for favors in memories and emotions, and where all the scary things you were afraid of as a child turn out to be real (all very Gaimanesque). Hence the shade: it’s not the darkness of all-out horror, nor the light of common, everyday life, but a shade: a thing that is a reflection of the real world painted in darkness.
Ever since reading Neverwhere and playing Don’t Rest Your Head, I’ve been interested in adding that aspect to my games as well. The world is just a normal world where there’s good and bad people, but go through the wrong door or turn the wrong corner, and you might run into the weirdness that leaves you unsettled.