Sunday, 24 May 2009

The Janus Fey

Bank Holiday weekend this weekend and also my 35th birthday on Saturday. Weather was lovely so I spent the day driving around in the MX-5 sans roof, then spent an evening watching the Futurama D&D-lovefest that is Bender's Game while polishing off half a bottle of Shiraz. I thought Bender's Game was excellent and laughed like a drain all the way through, but YMMV - note the half bottle of Shiraz polished off during proceedings.

Sunday was a drive to my parent's for lunch and watch the Monaco Grand Prix and accept my Father's help in starting the repair of the vandal damage to the MX-5 (keyed, once on each rear wing).

So not much geekery this weekend.

Something I did start thinking about was the random map I posted a couple of days ago. I was going to use this map, since a random map strikes me as very Old School but then I noticed something odd about the way it had come out. There is a secret door in the south wall of room 5 and 11 rooms beyond it, and a staircase, can only be accessed by locating the secret door. Roughly half the level is hidden away.

So I started thinking about what sort of weird level layout would want to hide half the level.

And I thought - maybe the not-hidden part was a sham designed to conceal whatever is going on the hidden half. Perhaps the not-secret part is all sweetness and light and helpful NPCs, but find their secret door and you discover what they are really up to - what they didn't want you to find.

And then I thought - well Elves are a bit ambiguous aren't they? They might be good, they might be bad. A lot of RPG settings divide Elves into good and bad for you, so that WFRP has High/Wood/Sea Elves as the good guys and Dark Elves as the bad guys, D&D has the assorted Elf races that PCs get created from and then the evil Drow as the inverted versions. I've never really liked this clean split between the white hats and the black hats as I think Elves should have the capability to be bastards and the PCs should never really know if they can be trusted.

And then I thought - Elves could be quite two faced couldn't they?

And then I thought - Remember Janus? That's the Roman god with two faces not the spanking sub-culture magazine. Interestingly wikipedia tells me he was the God of Doorways and Gates, so presumably secret doors in the south wall of Room 5 fell into his domain. Now a race of Fey with two faces would literally be two-faced. We could use Elf statistics for these creatures.

And then I thought - What about if the two faces were different? Then you could have a serene, beautiful face and on the back of the head, the same facial features but haughty, cruel and arrogant.

And then I thought - The face that faces forwards is the current mood. So the Fey would be able to turn their heads through 180 degrees and then their alignment changes from a Lawful/Neutral one to a Chaotic one.

And then I thought - This level is writing itself. All the Fey in the non-secret area have their beautiful faces forwards and are well-disposed to the PCs and act as healers and sages. All the Fey in the secret area have their evil faces forwards and are enemies of the PCs and, instead of healing, are vivisectionists, insane surgeons and instead of helpful sage-like advise just lie through their teeth. Fey's behaviour depends upon which side they are currently in so that a Fey that has befriended the PCs will be their enemy as soon as they pass the secret door.

And then I thought - why not take this mirror image idea to it's logical conclusion? Throw away that map and build a level that is a complete mirror image around the secret door and each room is the opposite of the one on the other side?

I like the idea that the PCs could enter this area of the dungeon quite often to seek healing and make allies but just behind a door their so-called friends are experimenting on prisoners and plotting general eeevvvvill.

So now we have a mirror image level linked by a concealed door. The PCs think they have found allies in a strange race of two faced-Elves but maybe the expressions on the back of the Elves' faces are hinting that something is not quite right. Then, if they find the secret door they discover the other face of the Elves (literally) in a nightmare world of medical experiments, plots and death-traps.

All that from one random feature on a random map. Neat-o.

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