Visual Design and Aesthetics
Gnomeregan should have a steampunk aesthetic keeping in line with the gnomish character. Litter the place details that show the way technology is entwined into every piece of gnomish life – Players can buy food and drink from vending machines in many areas, gnomish children walk around with clockwork pets of various sorts. It should be clean and slick, evoking the feel of a highly developed scientific society. It should also seem a little alien – Don’t be afraid to put in bizarre machines and devices that appear to have no purpose. GNDN (goes nowhere, does nothing) tech is absolutely fine here.
The flip-side of this is, however, that it’s a society at war. The aforementioned gnomish children should not be running gaily around but walking a half-step behind their mother, perhaps clutching at her skirt (if that can be done). Gnomish NPCs should speak with forced bravery, not the typical chipper demeanour we associate with the gnomish people. The historical comparison is London during the blitz – signs saying things such as “We NEVER close!” on doors make some sense.
There should also be some sense of the propaganda machine working behind the scenes, trying to keep morale up. Express this both visually and with sound: Place up classic military style speakers at a few places and let them vibrate when announcements are made, saying things like, “Be alert for trogg intrusions!” or “Your soldiers are brave at the front – Be brave enough to come out from your home!” I also think a nice touch could be tubes mounts on walls that fill with steam, and then projected in the steam are black and white images of the gnomish soldiers at the front winning the war, and large type pronouncements like, “BUY WAR BONDS” or “WE NEED YOU”. Every so often, the tubes overfill with steam and the top flips open on a hinge, releasing all the steam at once.
All of this continues, of course, until we flip the scenario and have the troggs invade. After this, the mood should quickly shift to one of panic – At this point there should be a shift in the visual design to show the destruction the troggs have wrought. Streets should now be filled with panic, and there should be a modicum of destruction. Resist an urge to wreck everything though, the troggs aren’t instantly going to destroy everything. We’ll leave the total destruction, replete with hanging sparking wires and smoke in the air, for the final tunnel escape, which is where you can have the entire scene be one of carnage.
Besides the aforementioned speakers, Gnomeregan should reflect more its science city concept than its ‘big underground tunnel’ concept, although as the scenario continues we’ll shift more from one to the other. Early scenes should be characterised by bustle and noise, people talking (this is a great place to insert a lot of rumors, like, “I’ve heard they’re making a big push today to force the troggs out of the tunnels!” or, “They say Thermaplugg has a new secret weapon for them!”) Once the troggs invade, add in screams and random explosion sounds. And when the tunnels are entered, bring in the echo. Make everything seem lost.
(Next up: We actually get into the guts of the scenario, discussing the map and encounters.)