Thursday, 18 August 2011

... how does your garden grow?

Here's that second loosely-linked post, with some ideas for parks, gardens and farms.

This post at John's Toy Soldiers and the Lost Gardens of Heligan probably crystallised the thinking, around dinosaurs thanks to those photos. They give off a classic Doctor Who vibe too. I realised we don't see this kind of space much in gaming. Why not?

Parks and gardens can and do feature as house and castle grounds, or public or palace land in cities, and why not open-air courtyards deep inside dungeons? The same in more sci-fi-oriented settings, but here the greenery could be in sealed pulp-style domes, out in space or as a preserved landscape like those in Silent Running - mentioned here too - or in the TNG episode "The Survivors", or part of a dedicated agricultural world.

The various associations make for more interest, like raised terraces and labyrinths, ponds and lakes, tool stores, potting sheds and hothouses, lawns, patios and parties.

And thinking about circumstances, drainage and irrigation ditches could be flooded and animals free to wander, maybe released accidentally, maybe deliberately for confusion.

Directionality seems important too. There might be a difference in the difficulty of moving in a copse and a plantation based on axis taken, something I think Epic once covered.

Maps are easily put together, physical terrain less so, but the nature of a tabletop could be marked impressionistically with elements like this converted agri-world truck for 40K at Tales from the Maelstrom. Linked with this and the looting theme in the first post, Winter of '79 has a tractor playing a key role in a game in their alternative UK history.

Whole new creatures could also be created. Check out the barkrunner at A Field Guide To Doomsday, one of the best yet. There's also the spookier Abyss Monster at I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... which is more damp. Maybe the gardens are decaying?

I had a go at adapting creatures with the Fat Frog entry Up the Gordian Path, and plan to return when Stokasis is ready. If you're looking for ideas for a weird green space, feel free to lift them from here. Besides the creatures, you could probably tweak some of the encounters and upland events, and the weather roll, for an overgrown or alien landscape.

Here it is again - click to zoom. I tried to get a sense of a natural order running ever on, and that seems to me key to this kind of landscape, the interactions between elements.

For something a bit more down to earth, I thought I might start with what for many of us could have been a literary seed. Here's a table inspired by The Secret Garden, a first 15 of the features met, in order. It's for DM Muse, and since gardens come up in a lot of children's books, I'll likely add new influences over time. It's a living table so open to all.

  1. A pair of gates rises here.
  2. This dark vault of trees runs on ahead.
  3. A stone court stands before a long low house.
  4. Here a door opens in a wall of shrubbery.
  5. A wide lawn spreads, wound about with walks of clipped borders.
  6. Trees and flowerbeds fill this space.
  7. Evergreens stand here, clipped into unusual shapes.
  8. A large pool is home to a weathered and grey fountain.
  9. This long ivy-cloaked wall is set with a green door.
  10. This entrance opens into a walled garden, from which another doorway leads.
  11. This enclosed garden has frames over beds and fruit trees trained to a wall.
  12. A figure bearing an implement enters this space, and appears startled.
  13. A closed grassy space, this orchard has no other exits.
  14. Treetops rise beyond this wall, but no entrance is to be found.
  15. A small winged creature in the crown of a tree bursts into voice.

I've tried to keep them mysterious, and general to work in more fantastical settings. As ever, they're now in at DM Muse so the table should be live soon, ready for any more.

Back in reality, Jedediah gives advice for urban gardening at Book Scorpion's Lair.


Tim Knight said...

Thanks for mentioning the Abyss Monster, Porky. ;)

Tim Knight said...

And for The Secret Garden:

16. A moss-covered sundial casts a lost shadow.

17. The leaf-encircled face of a statue of the Green Man peers out of a hedge.

Paul´s Bods said...

and of course the ever welcoming potting shed and the compost heap....which being warm...can have something lurking in it..the eggs of a "thing"

Unknown said...

a greenhouse/conservatory overgrown with plants
an abandoned playhouse/treehouse

And of course there's always the Sledgehammer Plants

Thanks for the urban gardening mentioning :)

Sidney Roundwood said...

Wonderful post. I love gardens and gardening. I couldn’t resist….

18. An elaborate and ancient maze, built by long-dead gardener, stands on the lower lawns, overgrown and nearly impenetrable. For a moment, there looks to be a shadow in the entrance. Then it is gone.

19. A summer house, paint blistered by the passing years, stands close by the garden wall. One window is broken and dead leaves have blown in over many autumns. A torn half of a handwritten letter lies in one corner.

20. Along the wall of the walled garden, at chest height, is a cavity between two bricks. A tiny, rolled message has been left there.

21. The moss-covered sundial’s face shows the zodiac and some indecipherable runes. The brass on the sundial is tarnished. The zodiac figures are out of sequence.

22. In the orchard lie three boxes of collected windfall apples. A ladder is placed against one tree. Most of the apples are rotten, but a couple of unnaturally ripe.

23. In the potting shed there is a chest containing an old military uniform (cleaned and pressed) and a revolver, wrapped in an oily cloth. When the cloth is unwrapped, a strong smell of mud and cordite fills the air, momentarily. Five unspent cartridges fall to the floor.

Porky said...

Thanks very much everyone. Those are excellent ideas, beautiful and haunting images. Like all the best they have me wanting to use them right away. It's clear this kind of space, and the old garden in particular, has a real hold on our imaginations.

@ Sir Timothy of Kent - The Abyss Monster is a colourful strand of inspiration I can see being pulled taut at some point. The Green Man too is part of the mysterious essence of these spaces, and I'm glad you've woven it in. Thanks for getting the ball rolling!

@ Sir Timothy of Kent & Sidney Roundwood - If you're happy for me to add those entries to DM Muse when the table's up, I'll go ahead and do it. I'll wait for permission first.

@ Sidney Roundwood - The details in there are superb, deft and deep, and the beginnings of whole stories. The last is especially powerful in its associations given the themes of your blog, with the mention of mud at the heart. It's an admirably light touch. In the case of this one, if you do agree to them going in, would you mind me switching 'revolver' and 'cordite' to 'pistol' and 'propellant'? That could make it more universal, but hopefully without losing too much of the mood.

@ Paul's Bods & Jedediah - The response has given me a fresh interest and I can see myself coming back to the subject soon, and when I do, with your permission, I'll include those ideas, the eggs and the playhouse. Both are very evocative in their own ways and I doubt I'd have had the imagination to think of them. More potential stories waiting to be told.

@ Jedediah - I'd not heard of that one, but on a wander in the far wilds the knowledge might well be what saves me..! Weird plants could be a whole new table...

Sidney Roundwood said...

Porky - yes, I'm more than happy for you to use my suggestions in the DM Muse when the table's up. It was great fun to build on your, and others', suggestions. Please do switch the references ("revolver" to pistol; "cordite" to propellant). The idea in #23 came to me from one of the letters quoted in "Six Weeks" (John Lewis Stempel) - a diary was found in a loft in the 1970s which had been kept wrapped since being written and completed in France in 1917. The person finding it (I think, the widow of the author) commented that, when opened, the diary smelt of the mud, sweat and odour of the trenches. I liked the image...I was just waiting to re-use it somewhere!

Unknown said...

Feel free to use this, otherwise I woouldn't have suggested it :)

The egg suggestion reminds me of one of the ways to make a Homunculus, with an egg from a black hen stuck into dung for a period of time.

Weird plants would be cool. There are mushrooms (I know, not plants, but close enough) that lasso nematodes and then digest them. That is not so far at all from the Sledgehammer Plant. Or Exploding Cucumbers - despite the name a real (and hilarious) plant.

Tim Knight said...

Of course you can use them - I'm flattered :D

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

24: The skeletons of several children lie here, under a curtain of Tantalus Vines (

Porky said...

Thanks for getting back, and for agreeing. It's all just too good not to go into a bigger resource.

I realise now that if I enter them directly, it may well be me that gets credited and I don't want that. I'll contact the administrator and ask whether it can be arranged for you to be there, with links to your blogs. If the table comes up in the meantime, feel free to go ahead and add them; I'll keep my eyes open so as not to duplicate.

@ Sidney Roundwood - The image deserves to be used often. It's a visceral thing, suggestive of time travel. Given how visual the major media are, the other senses can get overlooked in evoking a time and place, and smell is potent of course.

@ Jedediah - He could well have had the homunculus in mind - he's always amazing me with breadth of knowledge. You too. How could I get this far through life without having heard of the exploding cucumber? And that mushroom is almost incredible.

@ Sir Timothy of Kent - Then that makes two of us! Thanks again.

@ C'nor (Outermost_Toe) - Dark entry, but a fine vine for gaming. There really aren't enough plant antagonists out there - protagonists for that matter - and too few more insidious delayed effects. For everyone who hasn't visited yet, have a link to that vine and one to the whole post.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Thanks! And now, another entry:

25: An ancient tree casts shadows in a courtyard, quite independent of the sun. There are people sitting in the shadows, apparently asleep, and though the rest of it is cracked and ravaged by the years, the court is undamaged wherever they fall.

Porky said...

That's less an encounter, or even the start of a story, than it is the concept for a whole setting. Come back and blog some more!

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Well, thank you again.

More stuff:

26: A clockwork orange tree sits in the center of a mage's orchard, surrounded by such things as the tree of golden apples. Any that eat a fruit from the clockwork orange tree, for it is, in fact, alive, must save vs. poison or attack the nearest living thing.

Unknown said...

Does the tree play Singin' in the Rain when they fail the role and attack?

Porky said...

It fits in very well as an idea in itself, beyond the reference, and the effect of the eating seems it could spring - so to speak - from the nature of the tree.

I'm not a fan of the song, but I do feel it's a pity the associations a work picks up over time can be so strong. In this case the it had two big movies colouring it to some degree, the Gene Kelly and the Kubrick. I'm still a fan of transformative use though.

I'll no doubt be looking into both movies again too based on this.

Jennie said...

Plantings and agricultural landscaping can certainly have a huge influence on ease of directional movement. For those who are sceptical of the idea, let's not forget that the hedgerows in Normandy had a huge influence on maneuvers and tactics during the Second World War.

Porky said...

Given the way we think about war these days, it's almost counter-intuitive - plants? But reading up on their nature and thinking into the situation, it starts to seem the most natural thing in the world.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

This was originally an entry for this, and I figured oyu might be interested in it anyway, so have a URL:

Porky said...

Magical. To everyone else reading this I recommend heading across - it's right here, and the first of what will hopefully be many.

Porky said...

It's not been possible to upload anything at DM Muse for quite some time now, and sadly the site looks at this point to be gone.

I'll have a think about what could be done with the tables at the Expanse, and if there's a plan that could use the entries in the comments here in some way, I'll bring the subject up again in a fresh post.

If anyone has any suggestions at all, I'd be very happy to hear them.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

27: A massive Dryad's Saddle, growing from the side of an ancient, long-dead, beech tree. While it does not, in most cases, appear magical, sitting on it at moonrise on Lammas Night allows one to speak with the shade of the dryad once associated with the tree, and doing the same at sunset on Samhain transports the occupant to another world.

Porky said...

It's good to see you in these parts again - it's been a very long time. I hope everything's going well wherever you are and whatever you're up to.

I like the entry too, especially given it's a portal to another world. With your permission I'll link it into the Ends list. It's a community project from a few weeks back, for possible paths between spaces. We've got some crackers already and this fits.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

As well as I ever am, yes. Though some stuff did come up recently, hence how long I took to reply...

In any case, I'd be delighted to have it in the Ends list.

Porky said...

Done. It has been slower in among the local blogs without you. I imagine quite a few people would agree we've missed your thinking.