Grim Games: Rapunzel

Grim Games: Rapunzel

Kay Nielsen - RapunzelThe story of Rapunzel is one of the better known Grimm tales; many consider it to be one of the major classic fairy tale romances. The story is simple and easy to tell, and this is partly because the majority of the action takes place in two locations. The tale starts in an enchantress’s garden and later moves to the famous tower, both of which can be important and memorable locations in a game because they require a character to physically interact with them.

The garden isn’t a place often seen in RPGs, but they were far more commonplace in medieval times and thus should at least be part of the background of towns, farms, and even castles. Here, seasonal foods were grown to provide a bit of variety, and it wouldn’t be uncommon for specialists to have unusual gardens. Monasteries would also have gardens, as would universities and noble estates, each one reflecting the desires and wealth of the owners.

In Rapunzel, the garden is owned by Madame Gothel, a powerful enchantress that the world greatly fears because of her power. All manner of plants and flowers fill her garden, and it is surrounded by a great wall. Some might think, though the story doesn’t say as much, that very special, rare, and possibly magic plants grow in this garden. Rampion, the plant mentioned in the tale, is a flower that can be put into a salad, but the rampion the husband and wife steal must have been very special because they willingly trade a child for it. Considering that it came from a magical garden, this trade may have been a fair one, though the husband and wife may not have had anything else to trade for it anyway.

In a game, a combat within a garden could become an interesting encounter if the PCs wish to avoid damaging the plants. Movement would be limited by difficult terrain, and characters standing in a plot and fighting would need to take a -2 penalty, or similar hindrance, to attacks. If they wish to risk damaging the plants, they can move and attack normally but have a 25 percent chance of ruining that plot and any plants within it for that round. If they were sent to retrieve a particular plant from the garden, they need to be careful not to damage too much of the garden, otherwise they could end up failing that quest.

As for the tower, groups of varying power levels will have different possible ways of entering it. One detail that could remain the same is a single wide window near the top being the only point of entry. This would focus the party toward a narrow and easily defended location. Creatures standing in the window can be bull rushed off and into the briar patch below, magic can be used to negate teleportation or even redirect it, and ropes can be quickly cut. Funneling the players toward one point can create an interesting siege encounter for a tower like this.

At the end of the story, Rapunzel’s prince is thrown from the tower, blinded by the briars, and left wandering for years until he found his love once again. The fall wasn’t so bad as to kill him, and the encounters suggested here shouldn’t be so challenging as to kill off the party. Use combat encounter locations to push the party to think about how they will approach the enemy, what resources to use, and if they need to retreat to further prepare.

You can read Rapunzel online. How would you use these encounter locations in your game?

2 thoughts on “Grim Games: Rapunzel”

  1. Monstrous plants are a staple of evil gardens, as well as poisonous plants. Another use of gardens is to have them highly cultivated and kept in order by a variety of Tiny sprites, who don’t take to kindly to the “bigfoots” stomping in their flowerbeds. Topiary creatures and hedge mazes can also be parts of the garden. Also, one could be a garden of Large and Huge plants like the Dire Flytrap. Navigating the oversized foliage could be a challenge.

    Not all gardens have to be “gardens”. For a Halloween encounter, I used a pumpkin patch loaded with pumpkin imps. They aren’t terribly bright, but a few can rig a small trebuchet to launch pumpkins at unsuspecting PCs. Cornfields are also good scary places since sight is obscured or blocked by the stalks. Just add a murder of crows or an animated scarecrow. You could have a walled off garden that requires a password or key to enter. It could be overgrown, full of weeds (not to mention burrowing animals or skunks). It could contain a magical a fairy ring. The garden could have a reflecting pool: it could contain koi or piranha, or even a sullen mermaid who just wants to go back to the sea.

    As for the tower, Mother Gothel could be a hag or a druid. Even better, Mother Gothel and Rapunzel could be one and the same.

    Rapunzel could be a lycanthrope (which is why she’s locked up). Locked towers are good for mysteries. Not only could she be locked up, but there could be ghosts or haunts of previous occupants of the tower.

    The tower could be animated trapping anyone who enters it.

    The tower is claimed by a mimic who pretends to be the front door. It will let you enter freely. If it likes you, it will let you leave…

    It’s an abandoned wizard’s tower; the spilled potions and decaying spellbooks have corrupted the place which is now full of animated furniture and crockery. It also has an infestation of kobolds or goblins that need to be cleared out first.

    The tower belongs to a rival group of adventurers and Princess Rapunzel is seeking refuge there (to avoid an arranged marriage to Prince Vapid, er Charming). She is avoiding all would-be suitors despite the fact that her family has offered a reward for her return. She’s not all that nice to people who want to save her having been so poorly socialized.

    Princess Rapunzel was locked in the tower so long that she died of starvation there and is now Zombie Princess Rapunzel. Not only does she need to be defeated, she needs to be resurrected too.

    Really there are so many ways this could play out.

    1. I love these. I wanted to give more specific examples but I also like to keep my blogs at a word limit.

      You are right, there is much that can be done with gardens and towers. Like the idea of the werewolf Rapunzel, and now want to run that with your pumpkin patch idea surrounding the tower instead of a wild briar patch.

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