Mentzer Dungeon: Setting

Last time out I selected a scenario for my Mentzer Dungeon. The next step is to select a setting. We are again provided with a brief list of possible settings but they come with no notes. In fact, while the scenario listing is about half a page the setting section is barely a paragraph. I suspect this foreshadows the coming influence plot would play in TSR modules. The handful general settings listed (and even the book admits there are plenty more) are:

  • Castle or Tower
  • Caves or Cavern
  • Abandoned mine
  • Crypt or Tomb
  • Ancient Temple
  • Stronghold or Town

That isn’t much to work with. Let’s look at what we have in the scenario and see if we can’t find some hints for a setting. The scenario is the party learns of a large reward to rescue a group of five kidnapped women who were carried off by subhumans into the wastes to the south. The women are actually slave girls being brought from the pleasure cities of the east by a local merchant for a brothel he planned to open. So, we need some kind of setting appropriate to “the wastes” and being inhabited by “subhumans”.

If we lookup wastes on Wikipedia we get essentially an article on garbage. However, heading to the disambiguation page we find wastelands as an option. Following up on that word we wind up on its disambiguation page. The very first entry is a definition, A landscape devoid of nutrients, soil and/or moisture; see also, overgrazing, slash and burn, deforestation, erosion, scorched earth. The second entry is about a concept in Celtic mythology, The Wasteland is a Celtic motif that ties the barrenness of a land with a curse that must be lifted by a hero.. Now we’re cooking with gas.

So, subhumans of some kind (we’ll leave the kind to the next step) have kidnapped slave girls into a land that is devoid of nutrients, soil or moisture and whose barrenness is the result of a curse heroes can lift. While the stereotypical idea would be a desert I want something more. It is times like these that random reading can come to the forefront.

Sitting in a draft post for this blog is an article about visiting a forbidden Japanese island. The island is basically a huge abandoned coal mining complex called Battleship Island. I guess taking that as inspiration moves us to an abandoned mine, but I doubt this is what Moldvay or Mentzer had in mind.

However, the idea of “the wastes” seems bigger than one island and an island per se seems out of place. I’m going to draw upon a second recent reading, the old Marvel black and white Planet of the Apes. With this we have an idea for the wastes, the forbidden zone. It is a barren land puncuated by a variety of ruins. One ruin, in particular, will be an old mining company town with closely clustered apartment and mining buildings. In a Traveler game they might border on being an arcology. The presense of the mine allows for some underground levels, but I think I’ll focus on one or two apartment buildings for now as the subhuman’s lair. For the surrounding wastes I’ll go with a grey, ashen land that has a faint bluish glow in areas at night, borrowing the Planet of the Apes forbidden zone more or less whole.

So, our adventure, before any maps are drawn can be summed up as:

You hear that a raiding party of subhumans has kidnapped women from the last caravan from the east as well as exotic luxuries imported by the merchant Pali. He has offered a reward for retrieving the women. He can tell you the subhumans tend to camp in a ruined mining town barely into the Wastes to the south and provides a map to it.

Tomorrow, we will discuss exactly who the subhumans are in Step 3: Select Special Monsters

Other articles in this series:
Introduction
Scenario
Setting

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