Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Wonders

Earlier this week I was digging through a stack of Renaissance paintings. They were un-inspiring me and making me frustrated and mad. After all, this was to be only my second blog entry for Dungeonspirations. But I had an idea. Screw a period piece. Go with someone I knew could inspire me - Salvador Dali.

After flipping through countless images of melting watches, elephants with mile long legs, burning giraffes, and people with their insides on their outsides, I came upon something non-surreal. It was the Lighthouse at Alexandria. A great painting, but pretty normal. There were others in a similar vein - the Statue of Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Pyramids of Giza. What was up with Dali? Why was he painting normal things?

It hit me and I started laughing. Here I am thinking that the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are ordinary. They were the most fantastic and surreal things that commentators of Ancient Greece had ever seen. In fact, this was a period where tourism was just beginning to take hold in Greece, and the Seven Wonders were kind of a bucket list.

Set your mind back before skyscrapers, before electricity, before cathedrals, before the glories of Rome, and take a look at Dali's Lighthouse. From what I understand, this image is pretty close. It must have wowed those who saw it. Imagine sailing and you see it on the horizon - perhaps just before down with the light flaring brightly. And as your ship approached, it got only bigger and bigger and bigger.

So what are the wonders in your worlds? Where do people dream of going? Do they have bucket lists? What wonder would they travel days upon days just to see? What sorts of architecture are unlocked with magic or high technology?

Are there travel industries devoted to hauling people from one amazing sight to the other? Are there crooks and thieves ready to bilk tourists out of their savings? What about those poor, dirty people on the side of the road, selling little carved statues of the giant obelisk that almost touches the clouds? Does the local Tourist Board try to squash them out of existence?

Imagine Salvador Dali, backed by the purse of a wealthy King, given arcane support by a council of wizards, and the muscle of an army of skilled dwarven craftsmen. Would he chisel a hill into Möbius strip? Would he carve an entire mountain range into a mile high herd of four legged eyeballs? Would he carve the moon into a wedge of Swiss cheese?

I would certainly hope so. :)

Happy dreaming.

- Ark


  1. Wow - I really like the concept of "bucket lists" for the inhabitants of a campaign world. That had never occurred to me before, but it's a concept that's full of inspiration.

    I'm totally going to think about that moving forward. Thanks!

  2. *Two thumbs up*

    I love this idea so much and how it awakens the idea of the wondrous in a campaign world, so often overlooked by the PC's, as being exactly that again. Bravo!

  3. Good point - ancient wonders are an easy drop into any DIY map and a good way to kick start the imagination. I have a giant face carved out of a cliff and looking over a river in my Dordogne setting. I'm sure it was inspired a bit by Mt. Rushmore and the giant statues of Numenor.

  4. I do wish Dali had illustrated Melnibone.

  5. @Martin - I'm glad you found the idea interesting, and hope you'll share some of your ideas on your blog.

    @Gray - Thanks. Fantasy should be fantastic, eh?

    @ze bullette - Yeah, those statues are one of the things I think of when I imagine a fantasy world wonder.

    @Roger - Oh wow. If Dali had illustrated Melnibone then . . . well . . . I figure space-time would erupt and the lords of Law and Chaos would step out of the rift!

    - Ark