Archive for the 'Dungeon Jam' Category

Now This Project Has a Name

2010 Nov 23

Purpose Over Place

2010 Nov 23

Finally watching Deep Blue Sea (I know!) made me realize something about Geiger Counter.

Danny Boyle’s invocation of “ship, crew, signal” is insightful but also somewhat misleading. It’s not really about the “ship,” which should feel like a real place but, in truth, only exists for the purpose of pressuring the characters and enabling them (hopefully) to undertake whatever task has brought them here. There’s a reason that the classic “ships” are almost better described as “facilities”: the island in Jurassic Park, the retrofitted naval facility in Deep Blue Sea, even the solar ship in Sunshine. These places only take the form of ships if part of the mission of the crew is getting somewhere. But, all in all, the purpose of the “ship/facility” is in DOING SOMETHING and, in particular, as I’ve tried to set out clearly in the gamma draft, DOING SOMETHING THAT ILLUSTRATES HUMAN HUBRIS.

I’m experimenting with this new focus in the dungeonpunk horror hack that I’m trying to put together right now. Dungeons are a classic example of a place that clearly exists for a particular purpose — for the characters to explore it and uncover its secrets — which is pretty different than some of the locales in survival horror. Typically the characters are relatively familiar with a facility even if the audience is not, though there are good examples where both the audience and characters are equally in the dark: The Descent, haunted houses.

But, in dungeons, the thing that happens at the very end of most survival horror movies — where Ripley descends below, armed to the teeth, looking for something she treasures and prepared to kill whatever she has to in order to make it to the depths and back out alive — that desperation to put an end to this madness, even if it costs your life… that’s where a fair number of dungeons start.

This should be interesting.

Difficult Terrain

2009 May 4


Five-Foot Trapezoids

2009 May 2

Question: What do you get when a dwarven aquaduct gets taken over by cthuloid monsters?
Answer: Five-foot trapezoids.


Dungeon Jam 7: Among the Barrowkind

2008 Jun 27

To recap:
1: The Dwarven Underground
2: The Elven Watchtowers
3: Break on Through
4: Into the Forgotten Subaqueducts
5: Ghosts in the Great Machine
6: The Skymind Redeemers

The Skymind Redeemers in the group will most likely push for avoiding the forgotten aqueducts altogether and taking the more direct route to Svartálfaheim. After all, they say, it’s not like traveling through the tombs of our ancestors is going to be a problem. Riiiiiiight. What they’re really after is the Vaettirsverd, the blade with which the Skymind cut open the portal that allowed the 147th Grandchilde of Vecna to enter this world.

The Vaettirsverd was a ritual tool used in Svartálfar ceremonies since way back before any of the survivors can remember. In the chaos of Svartálfaheim’s fall, it was taken from the site of the Grandchilde’s entrance and placed somewhere in the extensive burial chamers of the First King of Svartálfaheim, who was buried along with all of his children (to keep them from usurping the throne from his chosen heir, a niece) and several other extended relatives (brothers, sons-in-law, etc.).

The true name of the First King has been lost to history, since construction on Svartálfaheim began before the dwarves developed a written language, so some investigation and wandering may be necessary before his burial chambers can be tracked down. Even then, it’s not certain where the Vaettirsverd actually is, but the tomb of the First King definitely leads down into Svartálfaheim proper, being attached by a long tunnel to the Royal Temple of Moradin, where the rulers of the city once paid allegiance to the crafting god who later proved so false.

Oh yeah, and of course this is a barrow, a burial mound from preliterate archaic times, right, not a nice Egyptian-style stone tomb. It’s a glorified cave with passages that may be partially collapsed and wild animals who’ve nested in it and ancient ceremonial artifacts all over it that date from the dawn of dwarven civilization.

And, due to the Grandchilde, the dead do not sleep so soundly. The barrowkind have the Vaettirsverd in their possession and they would rather stick it through your nice little hearts and not part with it at all. And they know you’re coming.

Dungeon Jam 5: Ghosts in the Great Machine

2008 Jun 24

To recap:
1: The Dwarven Underground
2: The Elven Watchtowers
3: Break on Through
4: Into the Forgotten Subaqueducts

Emerging from the aqueducts, our travelers find themselves next to at least a hundred waterwheels, many still being turned by the current flowing in from above. While some are part of a series of mills once used to grind grain, others transfer their torque through an endless pattern of gears to other mysterious devices throughout Svartálfaheim. Welcome to the bowels of the Great Machine.

Unfortunately, over one hundred and forty-seven years, the machinery has decayed or been jammed by flotsam (and/or jetsam). Even where the gears are turning perfectly, various components have been left spinning in the air, disengaged from one another. Still, despite all this, it seems like it’s not going to take much to get a large swath of the Great Machine running again. There are diagrams carved into the walls, which are helpful in knowing what needs to be done. Some sections are definitely irreparable, at least for now, with the tools at your disposal, but the rest…

And you have to admit, you’re all quite curious to see just what it can do.

However, before you get too excited, remember that you are now in Svartálfaheim itself, home to thousands upon thousands of your dead dwarven kinsmen. There are quite literally ghosts in these machines. Indeed, to stop their life’s work from falling into the hands of the 147th Grandchilde of Vecna, many of the dwarven craftsmen who built the Great Machine threw themselves into its bowels, fouling the gears up with their own messy remains and dying curses. Having used their last breaths to ensure that the Great Machine would never run again… they may not be too happy with anyone who tries to fix it. Beware of realigning gears that are stained black with dried dwarven blood.

Dungeon Jam 3: Break On Through

2008 Jun 23

To recap:
Dungeon Jam 1: The Dwarven Underground (jaywalt)
Dungeon Jam 2: The Elven Watchtowers (dev)

The first part of the mission to liberate Svartálfaheim was supposed to be easy: get out of town without the elvish watchmen knowing what you’re up to. If the Queen is alerted, well, that sword of hers is pretty harsh and if Svartálfaheim was going to be liberated by dead dwarves, surely they would have done so by now. With that in mind, the crew has recruited a few of the younger elves to the Underground’s cause, many of whom have parents or kinsmen (older siblings, uncles) who serve in the Queen’s Watch. They know when the watch rotation happens and have even gotten a few guards to agree to allow you all to sneak quietly past.

However… nothing ever goes according to plan. One member of the Underground was late to the midnight rendezvous (decide who and why). When they finally arrive, the bulk of the Queen’s Watch is fast on their tail (decide how they know). Time to leave, and fast!

Now, unfortunately, the Watch are alerted to your plans. On the way to the Svartálfar barrows that mark the outskirts of Svartálfaheim, the largest and most strictly guarded of the Queen’s towers stands, blocking the Road of Return to prevent escapades of exactly this nature. If you’re caught, you’re all dead, even the elvish youth, because the Queen doesn’t mess around with defying her laws or her Watch.

Guess it’s time to fight. Let’s just try not to kill any of your buddies relatives, yeah?

Dungeon Jam 1: The Dwarven Underground

2008 Jun 17

Dev and I are having a dungeon jam. This is the kick off post. I’ll link to others as we go.

Svartálfaheim was an ancient underground dwarven city. The Svartálfar generally worshipped Moradin the crafting god, but among them lived a sole starlight warlock who claimed he could glimpse the heavens even through fathoms of stone. This warlock, called the Skymind, was vexed by visions of impending doom that would destroy Svartálfaheim utterly. Being practical people, the dwarves placed their face in their artifice, building impressive fortifications and traps that would withstand any invasion. They were ready.

However, the Skymind, driven insane by visions of the horrors to come, somehow opened a portal to a plane of utter madness, bringing about the doom by his own hand. The 147th Grandchilde of Vecna (itself a demon godling) stepped through the portal and Svartálfaheim instantly became an orgy of chaos and destruction, with star-mad dwarves turning on their family members and themselves before being reborn as undead alien horrors.

The sole survivors of Svartálfaheim’s destruction were a few cautious families that had previously moved to the surface. Ruing the failure of their artifacts and war machines to prevent the disaster, they turned away from the worship of Moradin, honoring the Raven Queen as a conduit to the spirits of all those lost. The remaining Svartálfar were now a people wreathed with the ghosts of their dead. Every child was expected to memorize and recite the names of all the lost dwarven houses.

One hundred and forty-seven years later, the original survivors — still around, thanks to the dwarves’ lengthy lifespans — have instructed their grandchildren in the Svartálfar ways. And this new generation is determined to retake their homeland or die trying.

(Yes, so far, this is basically Gimli and his posse retaking Moria from the orcs and Balrog. Suck it.)