This was a really rewarding project for me. It involved writing music, making a puzzle, and doing art all at the same the time, and I think brought a really unique mechanism into our D&D gameplay. This campaign centers around the legend of the first Bard, and the players are on a search for her famed Book of Silent Songs. She hid the Book away on a magically hidden island to keep the powerful spells from falling into the wrong hands. She could have destroyed them, but foresaw that they may be needed someday (as now, to save the world) and because they are beautiful things worth saving for posterity. So, she intentionally hid the Book in a place where it could be accessed by overcoming a series of puzzles and trials.
I wanted these to be musically themed, so I gave the players the Bard’s harp which they had to use to navigate these puzzles. This harp is a children’s toy I bought on ebay for $10. They aren’t a major investment, and they’re not hard to play since you can create sheets that slide under the strings showing you which notes to pluck. We happen to have a musician in our group who didn’t hesitate to try, but eventually all players took part in playing the songs- no skill is required! I added some dragon stickers to the harp to cover the brand logo and make it more fantastical. It was a huge pain to get them under the strings, but worth it in the end.
So the island where the Book of Silent Songs was hidden was basically one giant dungeon area that was designed like a good old fashioned point-and-click adventure. Pieces of music and objects must be found at various sites on the island and used elsewhere to unlock new areas and eventually gain access to the palace where the Book is located. Around the island, the players found statues of mythical beasts like a griffon, peryton, or cockatrice. As they explored, they found pieces of music that fit into the harp. BUT, the trick is that each piece of music is only one half of a song! Two pieces must be played together to complete a song. Each piece of music had a picture of an animal on it, and they had to match the correct pieces of music to each statue they found. So when they approached the griffon statue, they used the pieces of music with the lion and eagle on them together to play a melody.
The statues were a griffin (lion + eagle), hippogriff (horse + eagle), hippocampus (horse + fish), peryton (deer + rooster), and cockatrice (snake + rooster). I cannot draw for my life, so all the images are black and white images I found on google, and traced and drawn using the craft robot and its software. I think they look super awesome. I also used the robot to draw the symbols for plucking the notes. This took a bit more work, as I had to measure the locations of all the string and put it into an InDesign template. This would have been a lot easier if the harp itself was symmetrical in any way, but like I said, it was $10. Since the area under the strings is larger than 8.5×11″ paper, I had to use 12×12″ cardstock to make these. It is fairly expensive per page compared to regular paper, but they came out really nice.
The pieces of music are meant to be played at the same time, so one acts as a melody and the other as counter-melody. Since some mythical beasts are made of similar types of creatures, some pieces of music had to be used for multiple statues. So the songs were written such that different melodies would be mixed and matched and put together at different times. It was really challenging to write melodies that could be played together with multiple other melodies! Especially considering the toy lap harp can only be tuned to a single key. A few pieces were written to be played alone, and were longer with multiple verses. I made up a visual scheme that separated each verse by symbol, so you would know which strings to pluck each verse.
Overall, it was a really rewarding project! Once they figured out to mix and matches the music, the only puzzle was finding the pieces they needed. But still, it added a lot of richness to the game play and all of the players really enjoyed taking turns doing it. It was actually so fun to write all of the music that it inspired me to finally start taking harp lessons, which I have wanted to do since I was a kid. So that was a nice extra bonus for myself well! Here are some recordings of the songs back from when I wrote them, please forgive the poorly video quality.
Griffin (eagle + lion)
Hippogriff (horse + eagle)
Hippocampus (horse + fish)
Peryton (deer + rooster)
Cockatrice (rooster + snake)