Inspiring The Lost City
By Chris Doyle
Before I start an Original Adventures Reincarnated project, I often spend a few weeks reviewing the material to give me inspiration. Converting and designing The Lost City was no different. Off the top, here are a few of the more noteworthy sources I drew on for inspiration.
I admit I’m not a hard-core Appendix N fan (sorry, boss). I’m a very slow reader, and it tends to put me to sleep. Sure, I’ve read Tolkien and a smattering of Lovecraft. But in the ’80s, my go-to fiction sources were Arthur Conan Doyle, Terry Brooks, and RPG gamebooks. Later on, it was Star Wars in all of its various forms. That said, in the past few years, I have read most of the Howard Conan short stories. And two in particular were inspiration for me regarding The Lost City: Xuthal of the Dusk, with its abandoned city in the desert and drug-induced population; and to a lesser extent, Red Nails, which shared many similar themes. I’m guessing these stories directly inspired Mr. Moldvay as well.
When it came time to develop brand new material for the project, specifically designing The Lost City and the various catacombs below, I looked to other classic D&D gamebooks. For the city, I leaned on D3: The Vault of the Drow in an effort to capture the alien feel and scope of an entire city underground. Naturally, the Underdark and a review of the classic maps from the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide was required when I prepared to design the catacombs below The Lost City. For adventures set in the Underdark, obviously I reviewed D1-2: Descent into the Depths of the Earth, and the 2nd edition Night Below campaign setting. When I got ready to design the goblin caves, I draw on parallels from Gygax’s own Caves of Chaos. A recent trip to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky was a great perspective for myself regarding rock formations and designing in a 3D environment, since the catacombs and caves were ripe with elevation changes.
Another inspiration was the 1984 motion picture Conan the Destroyer. At the time (keep in mind I’m 14 years old), I thought this movie caught all the essence of D&D on the big screen. Sure, it was more light-hearted than the original movie, but it had fighters, rogues, a princess, and wizards. There was a good old-fashioned quest, including a hex crawl, dungeons to explore, powerful relics, wizards dueling spells, swordfights, betrayal at the end, and a classic boss battle. The similarities between the horn of Dagoth (from the movie) and the only way to defeat Zargon in his lair at the bottom of the pyramid are there. Has it aged well? No. Do I appreciate the first Conan movie more today as a grittier adventure more efficiently distilled from Howard’s original tales? Yes. But it was still worth a re-watch decades later to set the scene and give me a few ideas for placing some Easter Eggs while designing new content for The Lost City.
Be sure to check out the full Original Adventures Reincarnated line. You can look for OAR #4: The Lost City to be released soon!