Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Puzzles in Taenarum

And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him.

Following up the post the other day on puzzle theory, here are a couple of the larger inventory puzzles in the mad god's dungeon.  I don't know if any of my recent adult players are currently reading the Lich House; if so - warning - spoilers.

The Regalia of the Death God
Hades has hidden 7 artifacts in the dungeon that must be brought together in order to get past one of the deepest portals.  These 7 items are the Regalia of the Death God - the drinking horn, bident, key, helm of darkness, scepter, and throne of Hades, along with the pale horse.  There are clues to the importance of the items throughout the upper levels - friezes, statuary, even some riddles that allude to them.  Each has a magic effect that's worthy in its own right.  There's a boss figure on each level, an archon of Hades, that guards a clue to one of the Regalia as one of its duties.  Obviously, I'm telling you, the readers, but otherwise this is all knowledge the players will need to learn through adventuring and rumors.

The thing I like about the Regalia is that once the players learn about their importance, it creates a natural competition to get every piece.  NPC adventurers will be gunning for player groups that flaunt one of the items, and the players have a reason to do the same if an NPC group gets ahead of them in the dungeon.  The quest for the 7 items has great potential for mischief and driving exploration.

Hades' Box of Mystery
In some ways, I'm trying to make the dungeon of Taenarum evoke aspects of the video game experience on the table top.  I want some of the puzzles to involve scavenger hunt style inventory challenges.  For instance, each major level features three inter-related objects - a chained tablet, a key, and an impassable door.  The impassable doors are obvious and pretty easy to find on each level.  They can be safely ignored and bypassed.  The chained tablet is harder to find.  Written on the chained tablet is a riddle or clue leading to the hiding spot of the special key to the impassable door.  Beyond each impassable door is a Mystery Box, which produces one random item before going inert and resetting.  (I'm picturing a glowing treasure chest like something from the Legend of Zelda).  Once a group has solved a specific Mystery Box, it never functions for them again.

Hades views the dungeon like a giant casino.  As god of wealth and the underworld, his kingdom has collected the wealth of ages - the lost treasures of Atlantis, the secrets of the Hyperboreans, and prized things from all the prior ages of man.  His minions carve the hollow spaces of the world for precious metals like gold and silver.  It doesn't matter if any single group of adventurers succeeds in the short term and escapes with plunder; he's wagering that they'll continue to delve deeper, into more dangerous places.  Like any bookie, mob boss, or casino owner, he knows the house always wins in the end.

For the most part, I'm using random dungeon generation techniques to create a lot of content quickly, but these types of multi-room puzzles that span dungeon levels don't emerge organically from random results; I've taken a little time to generate some of these ideas top-down to tie everything together.