Synergy Bonus

Writing for D&D is hard. There are a number of ways to fake it, I’m sure, but always in the back of my mind it has to ‘feel’ right. I can’t always express that queer, internal logic in words but there it is.

Suffice it to say, I’ve had some trouble writing for my wumpus delve and the project didn’t start to come together until I chatted with my wife about it…

Bare Bones

So the heart of the Hunt the Wumpus computer game was using your senses to navigate a maze of caves and kill the wumpus from an adjacent room, before you stumbled into it and were eaten.

Being D&D, I wanted to throw in some flavor: The maze is an old wizards dungeon. The wumpus is a creature captured for study but has escaped. The wumpuses reality warping powers impose a time-limit. An alternate path to victory is to rescue the wizards valuables instead of killing the wumpus.

Following that, I made a list of twenty-odd rooms that you might find in a wizards basement and started looking for ways to make them interesting. I may use a few but the list turned out to be a dead-end.

The problem was that the room titles that I came up with didn’t really suggest a theme. If I was good, there would be some unifying thread that would make the maze feel like a real place with a purpose and not a collection of random rooms. If I was really good, I should be able to tell a story through the dungeon’s themed rooms and even tell you a bit about the wizard himself!

Enter the Wife

Tina and I learned to play D&D together (2nd edition) many years ago under the same DM. While she doesn’t game anymore, she understands what I am talking about when I natter on about games. Tina writes better than I do, she is more widely read (in terms of fantasy) and she’s a Pagan with a better understanding of the arcane.

What followed was an hour-long discussion of goals and elements. We discussed several possibilities for rooms and encounters within the dungeon. As time passed, a few solid approaches arose and then I could see 40% of the way through project and it felt right.

The New Approach

I am now approaching the delve through the alternate goal, the wizard’s treasures.

Each treasure is keyed to a different 4E power source. Each treasure tells part of an ancient story that links them all together:

PSIONIC: “The Creator-of-All entered the void and gave it form. His arrival quickened the unseen currents and eddies that stir beneath our world.”
ARCANE: “The Creator-of-All conjured the elements within the void. His scion tempered the chaos and give it form.”
MARTIAL: “The gods warred against the Creator-of-All and spilled his blood upon the earth.”
DIVINE: “The Creator-of-All foresaw his fate and, knowing that he was betrayed, cried a single tear.”
PRIMAL: “As he died, the Creator-of-All infused his spirit into the essence of all living things. And yet, even after the rest of his body failed his heart refused to stop beating.”
SHADOW: “It is said that the Creator-of-All’s death was also the death of immortality. All things can die now, even the gods.”

I’m writing up what those treasures do now. Then, I will created rooms around them where they are protected.

I haven’t forgotten the wumpus either. It will be a little more active than the classic computer game had suggested. It has an objective now. He’s more than just a tough monster than could eat you.

Progress is still slow, but that has nothing to do with my earlier lack of inspiration. Every time I pick this thing up now, I get excited again.

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~ by Hunter Rose on August 11, 2011.

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