Drawn from the Margins: Dev Log 1

I’ve been working on Drawn from the Margins for about five days now. We started with a real embarrassment of riches. We looked to the common sources provided in the Illuminated Manuscript Jam, as well as did a little googling for some of the Rabbit and Snail stuff. The result was a short list of about fifty-five images.

A full 20% of these involve heavily armed rabbits taking revenge on people and dogs. Two of the other big categories were “Weird Bois” and “Snails”. We found a floor plan of a Monastic Abbey online, the kind with a scriptorium where such manuscripts would be copied and illuminated. Eventually, the bones of an adventure module started to become clear. These creatures had all escaped from a manuscript. The Weird Bois (a motley and fractious group) have taken control of a monastery, while rabbits are holding monks hostage in the countryside they once used to pasture sheep for vellum.

Still need to figure out where the Snails come into play, if at all.

A snail with a deer's head

This project is an exciting one for WatcherDM. In service of the Jam theme, it may be our most art-intensive offering to date.


System Adjustments, Scope, and Themes

Troika or 5e?

I think we’ve decided that this will be Troika!, so I’ve started statting out a few of our critters – the rabbits, the headless Torso Monster, the Papal Pig, etc. Originally, 5e had been in the running. Other than The Puppets of Beeglemaus, everything I’ve written for WatcherDM has so far been 5e, so while I’m excited to work in a new system, I still feel like I have yet to master it fully. Troika! is probably a better fit for this game, but this adventure was very weird for a 1st level DnD adventure; it’s much less crazy as a Troika adventure.

A headless monster with a torso-face

While part of me wants to just say, “Screw it, now the monastery is built into the side of a Nuclear Power Plant. Underwater! On Mars! In the Past!” I have a pretty strong feeling that this will detract from the core elements of the adventure: the illuminated manuscript. So, the other option that jumps out to me is to try and dismantle a few of the illuminated images into a d6 table of classes that are a little more suited to a medieval setting than the weird bohemian mutants that populate most Troika! games.

But that brings me to point two.


No art costs! Huzzah! Freedom!

In reality, I know I have to guard against mission creep. If I throw in a d6 table of classes, do I stop there? Should I just focus on what’s in front of me?

Probably, yes.

That being said, I have an image I like for a class I’ll call ‘Robot Dandy’, so — you know.

A cool looking guy with gold-leaf and cobalt hair


The last concern is that I think I’m still trying to figure out what this adventure is about. Mining module content out of these old images is interesting, but the original artists did have intention in these images. Although they are now buried in several centuries of the past, some of this stuff is still clear as day. The images of rabbits taking revenge on their hunters are just as anti-establishment now as ever. Images of pigs posing as priests and foxes preaching to geese have not become less topical with time.

Ignoring this kind of stuff can only cheapen the work, but at the same time I’m still reaching towards what the sum of it all might be. And while I’m busy trying to find the common ground between the class-conscious doodles of medieval scribes and my 21st century perspective, I also have to find room for headless ogres with faces on their chests, deer-head snails, and a ring-coveting wolf with a cloud for legs.


So that’s the big work going forward. Today is mostly little things – relative space and distance of encounters, bottle-necks and gates, monster stats, quest hooks, etc. Hopefully, by the time that stuff is sorted out, I’ll have brushed up on my Troika! writing, finalized what this module does and does not need to contain, and figured out what (if anything) a game about images plundered from the margins of high-cost religious texts from 500 years ago means.

That last sentence is way too long.

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