Emergent Dwarvish Behavior in Minecraft

So indeed, I was turned onto Minecraft by the Penny Arcade comic. Just played it for a bit; there’s clearly more to delve into.

Last night, I learned out how to create tools and create a safe space for myself, and then found myself walled in for the night. It was a sensible shelter: window to the outside, a corner to duck behind, a few torches.

The night wore on, with nothing but my workbench and raw materials. I dug deeper and deployed more blocks; I created a hallway to a slightly larger room for my workbench, and more torches. Then more torches still, and a higher roof as well as some steps, creating a greater sense of homeliness and space. And then I created an adjoining room: a proper corner to focus on crafting new goods, well lit from above to properly mark such an important place. Without the crafting of tools, I wouldn’t be here.

I continued to work on deeper floors, higher ceilings, and more torches in corners, desparately trying to make this little cave feel humane. I briefly mined upwards and accidentally reached the surface, revealing a dangerous vulnerability to the hordes outside; I quickly patched this mistake, and learned that it is far safer to dig below.

Morning came, and it was time to venture outside. I tried my newly forged sword on the wildlife, but was quickly bored. I dug through a new direction of my cave and discovered a nearby river. I was quickly focused with re-engineering the riverbed and even attempting to create and indoor lake, something to bring a little bit of the outside world to me.

Despite some near fatal mishaps, I created my little underground river, but I ultimately thought better of it. A gap for a river was a gap for the horde to get in. Why should I risk losing everything I built just for this river? Better to wall it off. I could still here it flowing beneath my footsteps.

Night came, and I walled myself in again. I set about to crafting more tools, and worked on making my rooms more grand, more spacious, more well-lit. Columns, walls, alcoves. This was decently interesting, but I wanted something even more special: a secretive keep for those who would travel further below, a reward for those who shared the love of a builder.

I built a spiral staircase, punctuated with torchlight, going down deeply; then a grand series of stairs leading into a narrow series of passageways. Day and night passed as I tunneled, because I was adequately entertained here.

Then came a critical question: how deep could I build? I started in the middle of a hallways: a cruel jab at anyone who would enter blindly. I simply stood upon ground and dug below myself, going deeper and deeper, waiting for clay and stone to give away to something more.

Deeper and deeper I went – only laying new torches when I could no longer see the torches above me – seeing how deep I could make this pit. I was clever about my strategy: dig down two spaces wide, so that at the bottom I could fill in one side as I climbed above it while leaving the other as a treacherous gap. I continued until I was finally too frightened of my own handiwork. I knew that I was simply too far below, and thus began constructing my ascent.

And yet, halfway up, I lost my grip and fell to the bottom. I survived, but with only a half-heart of health. My course of action was clear: snuff out the torches and build up words, filling this pit with sand as quickly as possible to return the surface. And so I did; a future explorer could quickly reach the bottom if they desired, but this little experiment was too gruesome to leave unchecked. I walled up the tunnelways, and thought uncomfortably of the explorers who would attempt to make their way through.

I walked up the spiral stairway and continued to adorn my little home. Experimenting with new touches, new lighting, trying to make it feel a little more grand. I dug sideways to discover new veins of coal and ore that could be brought to some other purpose; I filled them in afterwards, keeping the dark spaces at bay.

And finally, for reasons I don’t quite understand, my foolish builder lept from the height of his staircase and shattered his already-broken body. That was the end of him.

I can return to Minecraft with a new builder, and re-enter the same world. Somewhere, hidden in a mountain, is an empty home. I could enter, and wonder what became of the builder who was here. I could follow the staircase, and wonder what drove him to build so deeply. I could break down the clay wall and enter the catacombs, and hope to avoid any fatal pits. Or, I could adorn this stranger’s home, and try – again – to make it a home.

Dungeon Jam B1: The Secret Academy

Continuing the dungeon jam, but taking I’m forking off to the side a bit. Consider this an alternate path; I’ll explain rules consequences at the end. (John: feel free to continue this thread or not.)

The First Campaign into the Svartelheim was only a partial success. Key routes to the underground were mapped, but ultimately treachery within the Campaign, combined with the unanticipated encroachment of the Goblins, led to a defeat. Those first few heroes now low entombed below.

The elder dwarves, along with some surviving heroes, are now mentoring the youngest dwarves who must now be the front line in retaking the Svartelheim. They are not as hardened to battle, but they are passionate. In secret, by night, they train in the warrior arts until they are ready to enter the vast Underground. Meanwhile, distant cousins, foreign dwarves, and even foolhardy non-dwarven adventurers arrive and seek the mentors at the Secret Academy.

Slowly, most students will fall to the horrors of the Underground, but some survive to become yet more wise and more skilled. And so it is known that the Svartelheim will be reclaimed. It may take a hundred years, it may well take a thousand, but – inch by inch – the great city will be liberated and brought back to life.

So, this is suggesting a game that starts at – initially – more low-power. It would be more suited for running with an old-school retro D&D ruleset, perhaps like “Castles & Crusades” or “Labyrinth Lord”.

Dungeon Jam 8: The Dread Anvils of Moradin

Dungeon Jam continues.

Many adventurers will take the direct route through the barrows to the Royal Temple of Moradin, or at least close to it as they can manage. Or they may be forced to detour from that main path, but at many points throughout the Svartálfaheim, they will find temples to Moradin, long abandoned (and some would say forsaken). At any of these temples, they may not find true sanctuary but they will often find four sturdy walls with which to fortify their party. (Some young dwarves may refuse to say in these temples, as they blame the silent crafter god for the fall of the city.)

Take note of the craftsmanship in these temples: sometimes, encoded within, are secret instructions of where one must travel to find other temples, weaving a network of sanctuaries throughout the fallen city.

Sanctuary, in such a hostile environment, is a key element of survival, for there are many threats below that will strategically leave you no ground to fall back to.

Dungeon Jam 6: The Skymind Redeemers

Dungeon Jam continues.

There are those who believe the Skymind had the best interest of Svartálfar at heart; there are those that the atrocities of the fallen city may yet have prevent a further, unknowable cataclysm from taking place. Such heretics are the Skymind Redeemers.

Known only to themselves, they are a secret order among the surviving dwarves, and it is said that one of the original survivors is its spiritual leader. They share the same ultimate goal as the other heros – reconquering their lost city and liberating their brothers – but they also seek to uncover proof that there was some method behind the Skymind’s madness. They do not shun the ways of the Skymind, but instead hope to reform it, and train themselves as well in the ways of starlight (even if they are not warlocks themseles).

They also may benefit from congress and discussion with sympathetic ghosts trapped within the Svartálfaheim, but this raises a question: why? Are these innocent dwarven souls, caught in the crossfire and left in this purgatory awaiting redemption? Or are these merely tendrils of the corruption of the Grandchilde of Vecna?

Indeed, are these reedemers all simply marching to the forbidden beat of Vecna? There are those who think so, and there are those Redeemers who have met a lonely death in the caves for their heretical beliefs. All the more reason that those few, lonely redeemers will risk their lives to find proof of the Skymind’s wisdom – if any can be found.

Dungeon Jam 4: Into the Forgotten Subaqueducts

Dungeon Jam continues.

One of the great achievements of the Svartálfaheim engineers was to build a network of subterranean aquifers and aqueducts to send freshwater through the many levels and clusters within the great city. Enough water to survive on, to tend crops, to provide a home for the tigerfish and wildmako and sentapods and lighteels. Of course, the water stills flows, but access is impossible. It is unknown how much of the old infrastructure is in place.

The difficulty of entering through the Barrows are known, and so some of the wiser dwarves may suggest the old waterways as a means of access. Architectural records are seemingly lost, however. Could there be some scholar with access to a map of the fallen waterways? Or is there some other way to divine a path?

If the champions can find an access to the waterways, they may find easier access to the lower levels but they will find no rest from danger. The terrain will be cold, wet and dark: a poor environment for open battle. The waterways will have collapsed some regions, flooded others, and may otherwise leave a fast-flowing river that the heros will ahve to navigate. The wildmako and sentapods were never friendly, and it is whispered that worse things have risen alongside them.

The Svartálfar: and the Elven Watchtowers

JWalt has invited me to a dungeon jam. Indeed!

The Svartálfaheim was breached by corruption within and evil from beyond; the great city began to die, and the Wise Princess Chiria knew of this immediately. She felt it in her blood, and soon afterwards her scouts confirmed what she knew already. Crows circled the craggy land above the fallen city, glades of trees around them began to sicken and die, plumes of dark smoke creeped up from the dirt like an evening mist. She left immediately with her honor guard to visit the survivors.

Upon arrival, she asked the oldest: Who was responsible for this?

The dwarves were proud, even in mourning. They thanked her, but she could not possibly understand.

She shook her head. You do not understand! You are now bekte, the bloodline of a condemned people. It is vital I know who is responsible for this. Please.

But they were silent, and she was left no choice. She raised her sword and declared: I shall be your sovereign. I am now bekte, along with you, and I take responsibility for this grievous crime. This I swear with my life.

Many young dwarves lifted their blades against her, but she regretfully cut them down with a sword made of silver. To make amends, the Wise Princess directed the survivors to build the Watchtowers, which would stand among the Dwarven settlements, beacons of the Elven nation amongst a fallen people.

So it was that Elven adventurers have lived among the dwarves, overseeing the activities of the old families, and removing those who would lead the bekte wayward again. None doubt the adventurers’ loyalty; though it is also said that some seek only to enrich themselves from dwarven knowledge and art, and others seek life among the dwarves as a refuge from the Elven ways, and still others seek out allies for some nefarious purpose. May the Wise Princess preserve us from their aims.