Thursday, 3 September 2015

Inspirational Places for Table Tops - Bruges

Inspirational Places for Table Top Games


The Bells! The Beellllls!

Recently I went a wandering on a much needed holiday to Bruges in Belgium. Whilst I was ambling my way with my camera around this beautiful place, I realized just how much inspiration there was for games. There is something about the quaint, adorable city with centuries of rich history. Whilst you have beautiful buildings surrounding you with stone bridges arching gracefully over meandering canals... you also have the four horsemen of the apocalypse sculpted in bronze hidden between old buildings and you have a torture museum lurking beneath the streets and centuries of history. If you strip away the tourism and the people, the beautiful city of Bruges would make an excellent roleplay setting. You might want to go down the route of actually setting your game in Bruges, or you may go down the road I prefer which is to draw on the influences and craft something new. 

Horseman of the Apocalypse. Have a waffle, a coffee, and remember sweet Armageddon.

Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with middle age architecture and culture. Bruges  deserves to be protected not only for its historical richness but for its beauty. It became a hub for trade, specifically cloths, in the 13th century, however, the cities history branches back even further with buildings present from the 11th century. Part of the reason for its unique mix of different centuries is that during the world wars it remained fairly untouched. 

The buildings in Bruges offer an excellent foundation for ideas to spring from. The central belfry towers over the rest of the city and causes you to feel humbled. The tower was built in the 13th century, and then later burned down in a fire, to then be rebuilt. An entire one shot could be set around how your characters caused the fire of Bruges in 1280.  

Bruges Belfy is both eerily Gothic during the night and a brilliant setting for a mystery, cleric's personal character story or a strange magical location for characters to visit.  Other buildings show the of history in Bruges such as the Basilica of Holy Blood, (which has a name worthy of a Table Top game in itself) which was originally built in the 12th century said to house the Relic of the Blood, (again, what a name!).  You could set a Call of Cthulhu one shot, where the horrors of the world are shut behind the doors of the Basilica, or tailor your own Lamentations of the Flame Princess Game based on the idea of a holy relic, of the blood of a saint, being held within a cult-lead church. You could take the buildings appearance and create a strange town for your dungeons and dragons campaign. The ideas are endless and the history of the buildings in Bruges gives you a lot of cannon fodder for an adventure. Other notable places are  Sint-Janshospitaal, an 800 year old hospital building, over 21 different religious buildings (20 Catholic and 1 Protestant), and Bruges Markt.

Basilica of Holy Blood
Not only are the buildings a great source of inspiration for places and scene settings, the artwork around Bruges gives you a great deal of ideas to work with. The city boasts a wide selection of artwork both modern and old. Recently the Salvador Dali exhibit in the Markt Belfry offered a brilliant array of images from a great artist which lead to some very bizarre ideas. I have a number of ideas for scenarios and magical items for Lamentations of the Flame Princess because of the dark and twisted style of his artwork. If it had not been for the art displays in Bruges, I would not have thought to have used his work for inspiration.

Salivdor Dali, Because who doesn't love cannibal horses? 

Not only is the art in the many museums an inspiration but even the doors in Bruges make you want to start describing locations to your players.
A wizard lives here. 

Overall, there are a number of reasons to use Bruges as a point of inspiration for a table top game. You could set your game anywhere from the 12th century to modern day and capitalize on the wealth of history to create an adventure. Your players could investigate a murder in the central Markt which leads them to a dark secret labyrinth beneath the city, accessed only by infiltrating the mysteriously closed off Belfry. You could have a great deal of horrendous monsters crawl out from the canals as a result of a special artifact being hidden within the city archives. The only way to destroy it is to burn it all down. You could take the architecture and art, the doors and the places and use the images to create your own fairy-tale town rather than use the actual city of Bruges or draw on the history to build a unique campaign that is not set in Bruges but in your own world.

The possibilities are endless.

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