Monday, March 19, 2012

Music Dungeon

Look closely, these are not pictures of rooms.
But use them as rooms I shall.
As I mentioned last time, the skeletal remains of Ayotl's songbird head will house a music-themed dungeon.  In addition to a few monster encounters, this dungeon will consist of a series of puzzles based on music theory. Here's how it will work.

On their way in, the characters will pass under an arch bearing the inscription:  "The Way of a Warrior is to establish Harmony."*  This is a clue to solving the dungeon's final mystery, as we shall see.

The characters will then face six puzzles.  These won't be traps, per se, though some of them could be potentially dangerous.  These puzzles must be solved in order to obtain six wondrous musical instruments.

As each musical instrument is obtained, a theme comprised of low, thrumming tones will gradually build.  This will be accomplished through the Garage Band music-mixing software on my Mac, playing in continuous loop (the software gives me the ability to toggle tracks on and off).  For each instrument the characters find, I add a note to the theme.  Not loud enough to distract the players from the game, but enough so they'll know it's there.  Together the notes form a chord, but soon the players will realize that the chord is not harmonious and with each tone added is getting less so.  I will take this opportunity to explain to the kids the difference between harmony and discord, and how discord can be used to heighten tension.

The sixth item releases a demon, whose name is Mißklang or Zwietracht (German for discord), who attacks the characters.  The musical instruments the kids collected have to be placed in niches around the demon's chamber, and they have to be placed in a particular order to change the theme from discord to harmony.  The demon cannot otherwise be killed, but as harmonious notes replace the obnoxious ones, the demon weakens and is shown to be transforming into something less demonic.  Eventually, when the right combination is found, he is revealed to be a handsome prince (because it's girls playing the game, after all).  The prince rewards them by providing the first part of the key to the Black Tower of Despair.

For what it's worth, the back story on the prince is that he was cursed by his sister, the queen Esseniri whose tomb they seek, when he betrayed her in an effort to save their people from her tyranny.

So, a few days ago in the comments I promised sample puzzles.  I've already given the big puzzle for this music dungeon above, and now here is one of the six puzzles they'll have to solve to get the music instruments:

Sample Puzzle
Lava separates the party from the target musical instrument.    Three large tuning forks stand in the lava in a line leading to the instrument.  An inscription on the wall in front of the lava shows 12 figures:  7 white, and 5 black, all in a line, configured like the white and black keys of a piano.  Three are standing, the rest are seated.  The three correspond to a major chord (the second is four positions - or semitones - from the first, and the third one is three positions from the second.  These correspond to the first, third, and fifth notes of a major scale).  If someone sings a note (or if the bard plays a note on his guitar), one of the tuning forks will vibrate, making the lava ripple away from it for as long as the note is held.  If the kids make a three-part harmony (which I know for a fact my three kids can), then all three forks will vibrate and a path will be cleared through the lava to the instrument for as long as they can maintain the chord.  

Do you have ideas for other musical puzzles?
This puzzle is the most well-developed one I have.  I have two more in the works, but I'll need six in all, because that's how many notes I want the theme to have.

Any suggestions for more music puzzles?

* "The Way of the Warrior is to establish Harmony." - Morihei Ueshiba


  1. The daughters three entered the tomb
    hoping to balance discord.

    Perilous traps and music notes;
    demons song to be restored.

    Deep in the depths they must take flight;
    evil is lurking nearby.

    Move quickly three daughters, don't delay;
    carefully cast each die.

    ~Ludwig Von Dragonforce

  2. I can't think of anything other than something involving a coded message using a musical scale and the letters A through F ...

    I did stumble on a snazzy little online game though. Google "Play Auditorium", it'll be your first result.