In a previous post I talked a bit about finding inspiration for game ideas from non-gaming sources. Some of these sources tend to be a bit more obvious than others, but you know you are on to something when one of these sources actually grabs your imagination and begins shaking it up, and it dares you to use it as the seed for your next game. One such source is a TV series on the History Channel called Cities of the Underworld (from here on CotU).
Anyone who has seen this show knows what I am talking about. Hell, the name of the show screams, “dungeon crawl!” Even the episode list in itself acts as a source of inspiration. “City of Caves”, “Catacombs of Death”, “Prophecies From Below” and “Tunnels of Hell” are some of the best examples. Just the act of typing these names has given me an idea for my upcoming game this Sunday… :-)
Sadly, I have not seen every episode, mainly because I do not pay for cable or satellite TV. Not to worry though, Hulu has come to the rescue, and I have found many of the episodes on YouTube as well. The episodes I have seen have been most educational for world building. Want to bring a real-world sensibility to the next dungeon you design? Have an ancient city in your campaign and need ideas to help flesh out its history, flavor and identity? Look no further, because CotU has plenty of source material to offer.
What I find fascinating is to see firsthand what ancient engineering feats and technology were available throughout history, and to actually see much of it in working order today is amazing. I never seem to stop being astounded by what the ancients were capable of.
One of my favorite Dungeons & Dragons modules is The Lost City (B4), and it is not hard for me to draw a correlation between it and CotU. I wholeheartedly recommend the show to anyone who has not seen it. Maybe it will help inspire you to build that mega-dungeon you have been dreaming about all these years.