I was born too late in order to experience Prog Rock in its prime; however, that doesn't mean it didn't loom large in the musical landscape of my youth — especially the background noise of my formative RPG years. In a fit of nostalgia, I got online and watched a documentary about British Prog Rock by the BBC. Therein I encountered a band and a song that had somehow escaped my notice all of these years. Here are the lyrics of The Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson:
The rusted chains of prison moons
Are shattered by the sun.
I walk a road, horizons change
The tournament's begun.
The purple piper plays his tune,
The choir softly sing;
Three lullabies in an ancient tongue,
For the court of the crimson king.
The keeper of the city keys
Puts shutters on the dreams.
I wait outside the pilgrim's door
With insufficient schemes.
The black queen chants
the funeral march,
The cracked brass bells will ring;
To summon back the fire witch
To the court of the crimson king.
The gardener plants an evergreen
Whilst trampling on a flower.
I chase the wind of a prism ship
To taste the sweet and sour.
The pattern juggler lifts his hand;
The orchestra begin.
As slowly turns the grinding wheel
In the court of the crimson king.
On soft gray mornings widows cry
The wise men share a joke;
I run to grasp divining signs
To satisfy the hoax.
The yellow jester does not play
But gently pulls the strings
And smiles as the puppets dance
In the court of the crimson king.
Given that my now months-long thought experiment with the Holmes Basic Edition originated with the question of what would my version of D&D look like if I only had Holmes and Cook available, it occurs to me that I also ought to include some hypothetical sources of inspiration (I have already begun to do this with CAS and Averoigne). Given that most of my RPG friends and I listened to various parts of the Prog Rock scene, I think it entirely appropriate to use The Court of the Crimson King as a lyrical source for my own version of the Chateau des Faussesflammes.
As I look at the lyrics, I see four different ways this song could be the foundation of a really interesting megadungeon campaign:
- Note the line "Three lullabies in an ancient tongue." When juxtaposed with the summoning of a fire witch, it paints a picture of a Classical Civilization within the Holmesian cultural landscape — pagan and seeking out the powerful arcane knowledge of the ancients. This provides a solid timeline and cultural background for the Chateau.
- There are eight distinct characters that are named within the text. If the lyrics of the song are understood to be a cryptic description of the megadungeon, each of these characters, then, can be the inspiration or theme for one or more levels within the megadungeon:
- The Purple Piper
- The Crimson King
- The Pilgrim
- The Black Queen
- The Fire Witch
- The Gardener
- The Pattern Juggler
- The Yellow Jester
- There are two subtitles for the song: The Return of the Firewitch and The Dance of the Puppets. Both suggest potential events waiting to be triggered (at the ringing of the cracked bell?) by foolish groups of adventurers.
- Finally, there is also an implied mystery: who is the narrator? He, too, can inspire an entire dungeon level where knowing his true identity can be the key to finding a great treasure and/or the key to survival.