Monday, September 19, 2011
Nightwick Abbey in Hindsight Part 2
Before I discuss my future plans for Nightwick Abbey and the Dark Country, I need to establish what I think "worked" with the Nightwick Campaign. Despite my inability to get the dark tone across through my descriptions, the things in the abbey itself were significantly weird enough that they elicited the desired effect from my players even when my descriptions failed to do them justice. A prominent recent example was the mite spawning pool which occupied much of the player's time due to their curiosity about its function and nature. The sense of weirdness pervaded nearly every session in which they went into the dungeon.
I will be working some of this into Greyhawk castle. Greyhawk will definitely be weird, but in a more artificially constructed way. Much of the weirdness behind Nightwick Abbey was due to the fact that the dungeon acted not unlike a cancer, constantly adding new tumorous rooms and passages onto itself. Since Greyhawk is a more stable structure its weirdness comes from the maniacal will of its creator. It will also lack my characteristic love of spontaneous generation as the ecological explanation for dungeon monsters. I think some of the more hard core AD&D players were a bit put off by the fact that my orcs did not mate in the usual fashion, or that these weird "mite" things had replaced the more familiar kobold. For the most part this displeasure manifested in eyebrows being raised before they engaged with the weirdness on its own terms, so I definitely still consider it a positive.
While I'm discussing how it informed my ideas about Greyhawk, I should note that some of the specials and maps I had planned for Nightwick Abbey will probably get lumped in with my Greyhawk project. If I am to run the abbey again for this group, it will likely mean that some of the lower levels of the dungeon will need to be retooled in order to prevent repetition. Admittedly, the amount of these specials that are usable is quite small due to the differing nature of the two locales. Ultimately though, Greyhawk is a side show for me. While I plan on running it indefinitely, my true baby is Nightwick Abbey and as such I'll be taking a great deal more shortcuts with Greyhawk in order to facilitate more work on the Dark Country. Of course, Greyhawk might capture my attention as I continue to work on it, so I'm willing to let it take over if I get inspired.
As for the abbey itself, I have a couple of thoughts swimming through my mind. One is inspired by my return to reading C L Moore's Jirel of Joiry stories. The underworld she describes was a fairly early inspiration on the dungeon, and I think it might be neat to include a few more "natural" chambers. In this model, the Abbey sits on top of its stores that sit on top of its dungeons that sit on top of a sprawling cavern system with its own ecology and natural laws. Sort of a micro-underdark with a more Satanic bent. I will note that I may avoid this if I redesign the dungeon because it muddies the water a bit when it comes to the abbey's origins.
What I know I'll be doing is drawing a sharper contrast between the tone of the Dark Country as a whole and the tone of the area beneath the Abbey. The Dark Country itself is filled with werewolf haunted woods and cursed mountains. The country itself is filled with a terror of what moves just beyond one's vision. The Abbey on the other hand should have more of an emphasis on the "weird." It is a place that vomits up obscene forms that writhe and skitter about its halls. While both obviously represent a horrific setting, there is something palpably different about the two images and I think that the dungeon becomes better once one draws a clear line between the underworld and the "overworld."
Lastly, I plan on developing the upper works a bit more. Much of the inspiration for Nightwick Abbey came from images of Brick Gothic structures in the Baltic, and the only reason I did not include more detail on the ruined pile was a time constraint. Coincidentally, Greyhawk castle is really just a tumbled bunch of stones over the dungeon rather than a locale in its own right. I may change that if time goes on (and the players permit).
Since this one went a bit long, I'll discuss future venues for the dungeon and the original inspiration in part 3.