Monday, 22 February 2016

Into The Labyrinth

On Saturday afternoon, whilst thinking about publishing and work and other things, my wife was baking a carrot cake and so I was looking after our almost-two-and-a-half year old daughter, CJ. CJ is old enough now, and has been for a while, to watch a movie. After a morning of running around and building Duplo megastructures, it felt OK to sit down for a few hours and watch something.

CJ loves a handful of Disney and Pixar movies, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (aka, "The Food Movie") and also Tintin, but we're trying to broaden her movie repertoire. Labyrinth has been on my mind a lot for the last month or so. And it's not that scary for young kids, right?

As it turns out, no, it's not; it's far more scary for thirty-something fathers who have seen it a dozen times or more in their life, and who have read a couple of academic papers about the movie and the symbolism therein. CJ was fine and kept up with her usual movie commentary:
  • "Who's that?" "Sarah." "Sir-rahh." "Very good, love." "What's Sarah doing?"
  • "An owl! ... Where baby gone?" "The goblins...are hiding him..."
  • "Who's that?" "(lump in throat) The Goblin King." "What Goblin King doing?"
And that was just the first ten minutes. It's a joy watching a movie with CJ, because she's at the age where she wants to know everything. And once she gets past the first half hour and has a handle on who and what things are she just settles down and watches. So past when Sarah meets up with Ludo, I could stop my commentary for the most part as well.

Watching the movie then, thinking about Labyrinth, games and blogposts I've read recently, the following setting started to jumble together...

Into The Labyrinth
How did you get here? You're not quite sure. The walls stretch forever in either direction, and remind you of childhood, of singing and dancing and hair, big hair. But now there is silence. A whisper of wings fluttering nearby, an empty pond and a stone door fallen on the floor. An entrance. And still silence. There seems no way around, and away in the distance, at the centre of the walls and paths is a city, and beyond that a castle. It doesn't look that far...

...but it's further than you think.

Concept: start with a base of Into The Odd, simple mechanics and chargen, maybe a slightly tweaked starter package table. No Arcana. The Labyrinth is procedurally generated as the PCs explore, and strongly flavoured by the movie - but set some time afterwards. Factions of goblins. Features from the movie, but now decayed or time-worn by what seems like millenia. The Labyrinth itself is one giant trap, and can only be escaped at the centre.

Goblin groups, traps, travelling back from a hex to a previously visited location doesn't necessarily lead you back. Have hexes and locations be about features and flavour, people and monsters rather than describing a series of left and right turns. From the outside the Labyrinth is near infinite, inside it takes about thirteen hours, moving at a hex per hour, to get to the centre. But time runs weird in there.

If anyone mentions the late Goblin King in the presence of goblins they will stop whatever they do to shout, "Long live the King!" The goblins are aware of a ruler in the castle beyond the Goblin City but are not sure who it is. Everywhere is trapped but not every trap is dangerous; everyone you meet is dangerous but not everyone wants to hurt you. Paths lead to adjacent hexes, tunnels lead to nearby hexes, underground tunnels lead far, far away within the Labyrinth.

Any player/character who starts a phrase with "I wish the goblins would..." will most likely find that wish fulfilled in an unexpected way. At the centre of the Labyrinth is a fractured Escher-scape and a broken clock that is on the cusp of chiming thirteen. If it can be made to chime then a party of adventurers would find themselves waking up somewhere familiar "as if it were all a dream" except that they would have any treasure and possessions that they had in the Labyrinth.

So yeah, that's what I was thinking about...

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