Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dungeonspiration: The Dragon Palace

I've decided to do a regular feature - on Thursdays, no less.  The idea is to highlight a piece of art that can help inspire new ideas at the gaming table.  It could be visual art, a poem, or something else - but whatever it is, it should inspire.  Thus the name, Dungeonspiration.  No, that's not an underground tomb with sweaty walls.  Well, that's not such a bad idea, either.

First up on Dungeonspiration is The Dragon Palace:

The Dragon Palace is in the Japanese genre of ukiyo-e, a type of woodblock print focusing on a somewhat stylized or unreal subject matter, much like a modern day comic book.  This particular piece was done by Okumura Masanobu in the 1740s.

The woodcut is probably a scene out of a story or myth.  While my book on ukiyo-e calls the picture The Dragon Palace, an online gallery calls it Perspective Print of the Diving Woman Retrieving the Jewel from the Dragon Palace, which probably hearkens back to the story that inspired the artist.  Whatever the original story is, I don't really care for this exercise.  What do I make of the image?

Reading from upper right to left, in Japanese style, we see flotilla of boats.  The people in these boats appear to be well dressed - upper class perhaps - all focusing on the man holding something in the water.  Perhaps a rope?  The rope leads to a wall in the direction of the palace in the water.  Is that an anchor, or a diving line?

A naked woman swims in the water, sword in one hand, something pulled to her breast in the other hand.  An angry dragon stares her down.  She looks like she is heading towards a hole in the sea wall.  What is the hole?  Is it a aquatic dragon doggie door?  A cadre of ugly warriors is making their way down the ramp, headed towards the woman.  They appear upset.  They have weapons. 

I think we are looking at a classic D&D scene here.  A thief is hauling ass from the scene of the crime after a heist.  The thief is naked and alone with the goods while the rest of the party hauls up anchor and makes their escape.  I sure hope she can swim fast. 

Of course, there are lots of other ways to interpret the scene, but that is how it spark my imagination.  And just look at those fellows with fish on their heads.  I'm sure that hearkens back to some bit of mythology about Japanese fish spirits, but I'm in way over my head regarding Japanese culture to know.  My favorite is Mister Octopus over there.  Isn't he great?

So click on the image to make it bigger and dive in.  There are a lot of wonderful details all over the place.  Where do you think the Jewel was stored? How do you think the thief snuck in?  Are there two dragons, or is that one, and how are the two bits connected?  And why does the woman have to do all the work? :)


- Ark


  1. I love those old school japanese paintings like that!

  2. The Ukiyo-e style is one of my personal favorite. Also, I love your concept for doing this as a regular article on your blog. Doing this can inspire ideas for a single scene to a whole campaign. I look forward to what comes next! I recommend for further inspiration,

  3. The Jewel was in the shrine. That's the back end of the dragon outside the wall.

  4. Exceptionally cool - I might have to do something with that octopus samurai guy for my next Ruins & Ronin issue of NOD - provided I wouldn't be stepping on your toes.

  5. @Zombie - They are great, eh?

    @graymatterblues - Thanks kindly. Doing things in a repetitive or orderly fashion is not exactly my style, but I'll see if I can actually maintain a feature for any length of time. :)

    @C'nor - I'd have to agree with you on both points! I'm still not sure how the two bits of the dragon are connected. Snaking around through the dragon doggie door maybe?

    @Matt - I'm be kind of a creep if I did something to inspire people and get all up in arms if inspiration actually happened. :) Stomp away - I've got steel toed tennis shoes.

    Oh, btw, I've been thinking of cleaning up the colors on the octopus dude. If you are interested in it for NOD or something, just let me know.

    - Ark

  6. I'm thinking those Rabbit Hat Samurai are party members, and it's only Fish Hats and the Octopus Samurai (That sounds like a band, doesn't it?) that are chasing her.

    (Also: Do you mind my statting up Ardarniel? (The succubus/winged elf in the top corner))

  7. @C'nor - You know, the Boy has a completely different take on it than me, too. He thinks Octopus Man is a sworn enemy of the 'fish on your head' people. I suppose it's a picture people could argue about for days. :)

    The horned succubus up on the right? She was an npc in a 4e game a while back named Jostle. She was a huge thorn in the PCs sides and enjoyed telling sexually inappropriate jokes about the PCs during combat. She really enjoyed dominating them and making them do stupid things. Alas, the party chased her for months and finally killed her. I had so much fun with her that I commissioned a cartoonist to sketch her. I was very pleased with the job.

    But Jostle had a slew of sisters that looked just like her. Most of them were named things like Bump, Wiggle, and Shimmy - but one very well could have been named Ardaniel - so stat away to your heart's content. :)

    - Ark

  8. Thanks! I'll be back later, once Ardarniel is statted.