5. Inspiral Inspirations: Dungeons and Dragons

Robert Hodge here again, and welcome back to Inspiral Inspirations! Last time I wrote about the 1920’s horror author H.P. Lovecraft. This time I’m going to delve into one of the most well known tabletop RPG’s: Dungeons & Dragons!

Before getting into how this relates to Dimension Door, a little bit of history: I used to love playing D&D back in the day, having started with AD&D (2nd edition) when I was little. When I played most, I used 3.5ed. I loved the open-endedness of the build paths, despite its complexity and copious amounts of minute rules. But I did get 4th edition when it came out; I had a lot of friends that were down to play but intimidated by the rules in 3.5. That’s why 4th was great, it was a gateway edition into the world of D&D since it was so simple and seemed like a paper reflection of traditional mmorpg’s. As of now, the newest version, 5th edition, is my personal favorite since it mixes the mechanics and awesomeness of 3.5, while retaining the simplicity of 4th edition to keep the influx of new players.

Onto the birth of Dimension Door! Specifically 4th edition, I had a rather large group of friends all trying to learn to play and I was the Dungeon Master many years ago. There was 8 players, not including me. Already that’s a huge challenge, but I also had to make an adventure that would keep all of them attentive. So that’s when I came up with a fun idea.

Whenever I make campaigns, I usually create an entire world (since I don’t generally like using the world provided by Wizards of the Coast). So in my world, it was riddled with cultists trying to raise an ancient evil and unleash it upon the world once again. The players gained a lead on one of many hideouts. As the players followed the trail, it led to mansion in the outskirts of the city amidst a huge field of wheat. As you can probably foresee, this is similar to Dimension Door already.

My idea was to lead them to this mansion which was enchanted by powerful magic to make it difficult for those that enter to find their way out. That way the cultists will generally find any unwary travelers and use them for whatever vile purposes they see fit. The way the magic worked, the rooms would shift around following the same rule in Dimension Door: a room only exists if a player is in it. It was most interesting because right off the bat, they split into 3 smaller groups to try to scour the mansion. That’s when they quickly realized that the rooms moved. It was fun to be able to control what they encountered and when. It was a strong mechanism for a Dungeon Master to have. I could unfold any part of the story or any important information at any time dependent on what the players found out. For example, if they found a journal of one of the cultists and it referred to a monstrous thing locked up in a specific room, then they would be prepared to not try to unlock the door where the monster was slumbering behind. However, I could’ve just easily used it as a mechanism for hilarious irony: if they found the monster unknowingly unleashing it and then escaped to the room with the journal, it’d be a funny “no kidding…” moment.

All in all, this is how Dimension Door started. After the players gave me feedback at the end of the campaign, the mansion had a lot of positivity. So I thought, what if I made this into a game? And 3 years later, here we are now: Dimension Door is in the making and on Kickstarter.

If you enjoyed this Inspiral Inspirations blog post, give us a shout-out on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter! Also, be sure to tell us which D&D edition is your favorite! We’d also love to hear what your favorite character you’ve ever made for D&D is! Mine was an Archivist from 3.5 by the name of Vyncis Lynwood, whom had a split personality so his alignment changed daily from either Neutral Good or Neutral Evil and completely fascinated with collecting and hoarding books. The Dungeon Master at the time was excited to allow me to keep my alignment a secret so the other players never knew what to expect from my character. Let us know yours!

- Robert Hodge

4. Inspiral Inspirations: H.P. Lovecraft

Hello everyone! For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Robert Hodge. I created and designed this game from its conception. And with the wonderful help of my team from Inspiral Gaming and our partner, Hashbang Games, we’ve developed and are continuing to develop what you see here now. Now that introductions have been formally complete, it’s time to move onto why we are really here: Inspiral Inspirations! This new segment that I will be posting regularly is intended to share my thoughts and creative mindset that I had during the design process of Dimension Door!

Probably one of the most obvious influences towards the creation of Dimension Door is the 1920’s cosmic horror writer king himself, H.P. Lovecraft. From his Cthulhu mythos to the various other weird tales, H.P. Lovecraft created an entire world that mirrors our own, except with secrets and intrigue beyond our comprehension lurking in the background waiting to be unleashed.

H.P. Lovecraft is seemingly synonymous to occultism and ancient aliens. He tends to write in a style that allows the reader to either embody the narrator or seemingly be listening to a story spoken by the narrator. This style is probably one of my favorites, simply because of its immersive effects; it allows the reader to experience and explore this strange world and the fear of the unknown. So as I wrote Lysander’s Journal, I wanted to embrace that style, but I took it a step further by adding a sense of time to it. What I mean by this is that I wrote as a journal structure, as if the reader is actually reading a journal written by some person.

Two interesting aspects of become prominent due to this writing style. The first is that Lysander is recounting past events, so the reader will inherently have at least a low level lack of trust in the journal. Perception can be muddied by circumstances, memories altered by emotions; humans cannot necessarily avoid that so easily, and Lysander is certainly not immune to it either. So essentially, some of what he has written in his journal may be exaggerated, or otherwise not the full story since it is purely his perspective. The second interesting aspect brought forth by this writing style is the definitive nature of Lysander’s livelihood - as long as there is still text to read, presumably Lysander is still alive, and has survived whatever event he is currently recounting. This concept begs the question then, what happens when you finish the book? Unless Lysander definitively states that he is done writing in his journal, his whereabouts will be unknown to the reader. These concepts have been extremely exciting to play around with.

Back to H.P. Lovecraft: I have quite a few favorite stories of his that I find it hard to choose just one. So I’ll start with “Dagon”. It already starts off morbidly, insinuating that the narrator is going to kill himself - so the reader already anticipates what could possibly cause someone to write such a lengthy and detailed suicide note. Without ruining the story too much, the narrator finds himself in a strange region and explores it blindly wandering, only to find a monolithic obelisk. On this obelisk, the inscriptions led the narrator to attain knowledge he now wishes he had never learned nor witnessed, and is sharing to the reader before he presumably offs himself.

This is something I found to be extremely prominent in games and other lore, and I personally find very interesting. Not so much the morbidity of the opening lines, but rather the motif of “learned experience/power through ancient carvings”. For example, in “At the Mountains of Madness”, a novella also written by H.P. Lovecraft, the two main characters come across this similar fascination, though their learned experience is much different and more grand. We see this everywhere - a well known game that does this is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. As you explore the world of Skyrim, you learn you are Dragonborn and are capable of powerful shouts, of which you learn more shouts by reading special inscriptions on various stone walls scattered throughout the traversable world.

This common motif inspired me to incorporate it into the world of Dimension Door as I was writing Lysander’s Journal - Lysander experiences a similar situation, lost in a desolate wasteland inhabited only by his target he intends to purge from the universe - the massive Balub Gor. I put this in Lysander’s Journal both because I find it a cool and interesting concept as well as an homage to the motif I find prominent in storytelling of all mediums.

Lastly, H.P. Lovecraft is known for having created strange creatures and magic, from the unique society of the Elder Things, to the strange circumstances of the sorcerer’s son in the story “The Alchemist”, to the very thing the narrator witnessed in the aforementioned “Dagon”. These alone, have inspired me to create some of my own monsters, like the Shapeless Render.

You can find examples on the Game Info tab of the Inspiral Gaming website. And if you enjoyed this first blog post of Inspiral Inspirations, give us a shout-out on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter! I certainly enjoyed sharing this with you! If you have a favorite Lovecraftian story or monster, let us know!

- Robert Hodge

3. Dimension Lore: Lysander’s Journal

2. Dimension Lore: The Soldier

1. Dimension Lore: The Nurse