The Hall of the Mountain King

In my dotage, I find myself drawn more to classical music than I have been throughout my youth. That is to say, I like it at all. When I was growing up, the only classical music I liked was in Warner Brothers cartoons (and most of that, I didn’t even realize until I started listening to real classical music– “Hey! I recognize that!”

I now notice, however, just how much of a variation in classical music there can be. The same piece can be completely reinterpreted, and yet remain quantifiably the same piece of music. Take, for example, Edvard Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King.” Here it is in its unadulterated form:

You all know the piece; you’ve heard it on some commercial, or in some movie, or something. You might not have known its name (Hel, I didn’t know it was part of the same piece of music as “Morning” until not long ago), but the elasticity of the piece makes me stare in wonder. Consider this:

It’s only four instruments, and it’s heavy metal, but it’s undeniably the same piece. How’s that possible? Well, here’s another:

Damn, that’s got a completely different tone and feel. And yet, it’s got the same notes. Same piece, completely different experience. And holy moly, we can even find this:

So what is my point with all this? I think it points to the question, raised a month and a half ago, of whether or not it is possible to publish a megadungeon. I wrote on this subject a few weeks ago, but I thought it meet to follow up with this musical analogy. Edvard Grieg wrote his megadungeon (the Peer Gynt suite) in 1875. He laid it down, in writing, and left it for others to “imagine the hell out of”. Others have since done so; as orchestral arrangements, as metal, as techno…

The same can be said of any megadungeon. It is initially written by someone. Then others come along and play it on different instruments (different game systems). Each game master makes it his own; Apocalypto plays it differently than DJ Liquid. Just as I might play Castle of the Mad Archmage one way, someone else might play it a completely different way. From the same notes, they would make different music. Such, I think, applies to all megadungeons.

They all get played differently by those who run them. But they all start with the same music. And that’s the point. Publish the same music, and get a million different songs. Such is the beauty of the megadungeon.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

4 thoughts on “The Hall of the Mountain King

  1. I agree totally with this interpretation of mega-dungeon. And was the point I was inelegantly arguing during the the "Can you Print a Megadungeon Wars of '09"

    Zooming out, this is how lots of D&D campaigns were/some are. We were all given this piece of music, D&D, and we've interpreted it differently.

    But, that creates a (perceived only?) problem for publishers (fracturing market, branding of what D&D is). Hence they've pushed (or from reading early Dragons seems to have been pushed on them by players) an agenda of "official" rules and versions.

    Open, site based, modules with many "make it your own" points. Encouraged or even required customization. -> Fully detailed, plot based modules.

    Sandbox campaign worlds. -> Canon, detailed worlds locked into specific flavor / styles of play, epic events officially changing world.

    Maybe it hasn't changed as much over time as it seems to me. The point I was trying to get round to was this maybe a good analogy to help someone understand the differences between old-school vs new-school, sanbox/improvised vs storypath, my game style vs others is sheet music vs an album.

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