#RPGaDAY2020: Day 24 — Humor


When developing an RPG, its launch is critical. Beyond the mechanics of the game, which to be fair, are generally derivative of Dungeons & Dragons*, there has to be a defining hook, which can often take the form of modules or adventure paths.

One of the first such adventures I began working on for Occult Detective: The Roleplaying Game, centered on a vampire being tracked across Europe until finally cornered in an abandoned monastery in Romania — The Humor Monastery of Mănăstirea Humorului.

When I was developing the story, I did not realize the Humor Monastery had been reopened (in 1990, no less). Built on the ruins of a thirteenth century monastery, Humor was constructed in 1530 and was surrounded by ramparts, with a three-level brick-and-wood lookout tower. It was designed with narrow walls enclosing the last stretch of stairway so that defenders would only need face one enemy at a time.

It seemed an ideal place for a final showdown with my antagonist.

The monastery was painted, inside and out, with vivid frescoes of such religious iconography as the Last Judgement, Saint George, the Virgin Mary, and even the Siege of Constantinople.

I also liked the contrast between the violent and occult nature of the storyline and that of the name of the place — Humor, and of course, I worked feverously to incorporate several appropriate puns throughout the tale, culminating in the arrival at the monastery itself.

Humor Monastery was tailor-made for an RPG adventure, as one of its five chambers, the Tomb, hid a treasure room full of monastic riches.

Ultimately, I abandoned the idea. It was too cute, for one, and was a tired plot, being a rehash of Stoker’s Dracula. But Humor stuck with me. It’s a wondrous place. And someday, I may just use it within the context of Occult Detective — just with no vampires in sight.

—Bob Freeman
Bordermen Games

*Yes, there have been many innovations, but the core concept remains.

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