Friday, December 17, 2010

GM Mentoring: Adventure Creation Through Myth And Television...

Good Evening:

I often find inspiration for adventures in the television series I watch or the stories of mythology. Often the best ideas come from a blending of the core concepts from two unrelated sources, and then running with the resulting Frankenstein creation, smoothed out to fit the events of the campaign itself. Let's work through an example, by way of illustration.

Let's start with a story chosen from mythology. It often helps if we look at a religion that is not common to the usual experience of the gaming group. As mine is primarily made up of Christians, choosing a non-European mythos is highly recommended. While I started thinking initially in terms of oriental myths, I eventually decided to try something a bit closer to home. With that in mind, I searched Google for Polynesian myths and found an interesting site that mentioned a number of legends we can pull from. I liked the following for an adventure idea:

In Tahitian mythology, the supreme creator deity was Ta'aroa, also called Rua-i-tupra (source of growth). Ta'aroa emerged from a cosmic egg and started the process of creation. To fill the emptiness around him, he used part of the egg to make the sky and the other part to create the earth. Satisfied with his accomplishment, he filled the world with all the creatures and things that are now found in it. The Tahitians believed that Ta'aroa sent both blessings and curses, and they tried to appease him with human sacrifices.

This evening, I also watched a show on the Smithsonian Channel entitled "The Mystery of the Hope Diamond." One of the stories of the origin of the Hope Diamond curse can be found on Wikipedia:

According to these stories, Tavernier stole the diamond from a Hindu temple where it had been set as one of two matching eyes of an idol, and the temple priests then laid a curse on whoever might possess the missing stone. Largely because the other blue diamond "eye" never surfaced, historians dismissed the fantastical story. Furthermore, the legend claimed that Tavernier died of fever soon after and that his body was torn apart by wolves, but the historical record shows that he actually lived to the age of 84.

We start the process by breaking each down into their component pieces, or at least the pieces we want to use for our adventure idea. From the myth snippet above, we can grab the following tidbits:

  • A creator deity emerges from a cosmis egg, and uses part of it to create the sky and the rest to create the heavens.
  • Then he filled the world with all the different forms that occupy it now.
  • Human followers tried to appease him with human sacrifices.

From the Hope Diamond legend, I found the following pieces that might prove interesting in an adventure:

  • An adventurer steals a gem from an eye of an idol in an ancient temple.
  • A curse laid upon the stone afflicts any who possess it.
  • The original adventurer died of a fever and his body was then ripped apart by wolves.

Putting those ideas together, I came up with the following adventure concept:

The temple of an ancient cult devoted to a Creator God was once robbed by a band of adventurers. The biggest score of the heist was a gem stolen from the main statue of a wolf-headed Creator God; however, the theft came with a price, for the cult had lain a curse upon the stolen gem. One by one, the adventuring band has succumbed to a deadly disease. Now, the last surviving member, in the hopes of removing this disease, is seeking adventurers that are willing to escort him back to the temple, to return the stolen gem to the eye of the statue. The biggest challenge isn't the wilderness through which the survivor and his crew will travel, but the human-sacrificing cultists and sacred dire wolves that demand blood to atone for the theft of their God statue's eye.

This adventure could pack in a lot of cultural flavor, and creates a fairly unique motivation for the adventure that is different from most that I've run. Most of the adventures I run tend to be going to a location in order to steal/acquire the contents of that destination. Here's a scenario that features taking an object to a destination, despite danger to life and limb. I'd be interested in seeing what my players would do with the scenario. What are your thoughts on it?

With Regards,


David said...

Oooooh, you could have a lot of fun with this. Perhaps the surviving thief has told the characters that there's a huge treasure in the temple and has got them involved for that mercenary reason. He's neglected to mention the gem he's trying to return as who in their right mind returns loot, and he's worried that the PCs might steal the gem from him and leave him with the curse.

Cue scenes of discovery where the PCs realise that their guide is torment by bad dreams of his dead companions, and has a secret something he's very protective of!

Carter Soles said...

Very well done! I like the concept of returning an item a great deal -- I haven't seen that before.