July 23, 2010

Somewhere Under a Lost and Lonely Hill…

 So some time back, I mentioned working on a writing project that was very cool, and which I couldn’t talk about. What I didn’t say at the time was that it was actually two related writing projects, whose juxtaposition made both even cooler. Here’s the first.

In the new Tomb of Horrors super-adventure, the excellent Ari Marmell (lead designer) crafted a story framework within which we both had a hell of a lot of fun thinking up new and exciting ways to send your D&D characters to an untimely end. You can read more about it here, and I’m sure people will be talking about it elsewhere, so I’m not going to.

Except to say this.

The super-adventure builds on the events of Gary Gygax’s original Tomb of Horrors, as well as the sequel Return to the Tomb of Horrors by the incomparable Bruce Cordell. In that mega-adventure, a necromancer’s enclave called Skull City has been built up around the fabled dungeons of the Tomb. In the new Tomb super-adventure, the original Tomb of Horrors dungeons have been mostly destroyed. Skull City is a ruin, fought over by factions allied with and against the demilich Acererak. One of those factions is a group called the Skullbreakers, which are described as follows:

The Skullbreakers

Much smaller in number and presence than either the Blackfire or Faithmarked factions, the Skullbreakers are not the descendants of those who settled Skull City. Rather, this loose band of warriors consists of heroes who heard that the Tomb of Horrors had been drained of power — and who intend to make sure it stays that way.

The Skullbreakers are named for the shattering of Acererak’s skull — the legendary (though ultimately false) means by which the demilich was said to have been endlessly destroyed. (The devious Acererak had long spread rumors that an Acererak construct guarding the Tomb’s final vault was the demilich himself.) The Skullbreakers control a well-defended portion of the residential ruins, from which they make strikes against the Faithmarked and Blackfire factions.

But what nobody knows except me (and, well, you now) is that the Skullbreakers are based on me and three good friends of mine — David, Kevin, and Mitchell — who were the three people I originally started playing Dungeons & Dragons with lo those many years ago.

(Heroic portrait by the excellent Kerem Beyit.)

From left to right, that’s Myshal (Mitchell); Daud Jatmor (David, from David the Giant Killer, his first PC); Njall (me, from Nigel, an old nickname; it was the 80s, leave me alone); and Kobhein (Kevin, continuing to demonstrate my incredible fantasy-writer ability to translate ordinary names into Epic-Speak).

Frankly, I think the likenesses are amazing, especially considering that Kerem wasn’t working off of any pictures of the actual people, but merely my art-order description of celebrities we each kind of resembled. (I’m seriously thinking about getting that skull tattoo.)

In a pivotal encounter in Chapter Three of the super-adventure, the PCs face off against the Skullbreakers — and hopefully parley with them, because we will kick their asses.

And if that wasn’t cool enough (at least I think it’s cool; your mileage may vary), here’s something else.

As mentioned, the original Tomb of Horrors is a wasted ruin in the new super-adventure, which I thought was a great twist by Ari on which to build a “sequel”, of sorts. However, the backstory of the super-adventure made me think it would be kind of cool to actually update the original Tomb to the 4th edition rules, making it a kind of “before” picture to the super-adventure’s “after”. I pitched the powers that be on doing just that for Dungeon, and they agreed — but wanted it done as a free adventure for the RPGA (a worldwide players’ group that TSR created and that WotC now runs). That free adventure was also out this month, and was just as much fun to work on as the super-adventure. Especially getting to break out the cover credit.

The one thing that I want to share from the RPGA update module is the afterward.

The short version: I really like my job.

(Archive post from the personal blog.)