Monday, October 25, 2010

The Wolfman aka Talbot Hall

Talbot Hall

Say what you will about the originality or strength of the plot of the reimagined Wolf Man movie but the scenery involving Talbot Hall was amazing. This magnificent manor had all the trappings of a haunted house or a chateau that has seen better days.

Prior to arriving on the property proper, the prodigal son passes through a gate acting as a way marker for the Hall. These gates are designed to act as a shield to the outside world, to indicate that you are now passing into the Talbot grounds. The land ownership involved here is immense. There are herd animals being taken care of and various buildings where the employees live.

There are ruins dotting the country side; ancient buildings that have collapsed due to misuse and the relentless weight of time pressing down on them. Here, the elements having taken their toll leaving only a few stone walls and windows empty of glass and woodwork allowing the wind and rain to pass through with no resistance. The grounds broken up and dangerous as sub levels are covered by years of fallen leaves and decay but not solid enough to hold dup a grown man running.

These grounds are heavily wooded with clearings only around the manor hall itself and by the mausoleum. The manor proper itself surrounded by more stone work and on higher ground than the surrounding. Due to this, there are numerous stairwells and bridges giving the grounds a near maze like appearance and providing potential chase scenes.

Imagine if the characters are riding their horses up and above them is a bridge where some creature waits to pounce on them. Or if going the high action route, while chasing a foeman through the manor grounds, their enemy leaps down atop of a moving carriage and the players have to make some Dexterity and Skill Checks to follow through.

Other aspects included by the size of the grounds include a river running through it. Another instance of more bridge work. Other streams created from waterfalls creating a divide between two sections of land where players or monsters may fall into the rushing river.

Another area is a nearby large body of water either an enormous pond or a small lake. On the borders of the lake are numerous small stones perfect for skipping, but signs of decay are also abundant here. There is a crypt partially sunken into the wetlands bordering the pond with only the roof and the surrounding statues poking out of the water, victims of relentless time marching on and the eroding of the nearby land to marsh.

Also present is the garden with the greenery carved to resemble various animals. Although I did not see it, a shrub maze would not be out of place in the decadent splendor of the massive manor grounds.

And in all of this wilderlands and all of this savergy, is the mist and the fog and the clouds and the moon. They cast a phyhsical presence over the entirety of the movie and definately over the landscape here.
Before even getting to the hall, the outside of the manor is one of vanity with statues and a fountain surrounded by clean cut hedges, the fountain itself also a piece of art. The interior of the manor is massive. When Del Toro walks into the main greeting hall, there are a wide variety of sights for him to take in. First off is the massive central stairwell that appears large enough for three men to walk abreast of. There are massive chandeliers with candles shedding their flicking lights.

On the walls, those leading to the exterior are heavily laden with windows. Those on the interior either have murals, paintings, or mirrors. In front of the walls is no different with either stuffed animals, parts of animals, like massive tusks of ivory wrapped in gold. These stuffed animals can be used either as decoration or in a game like Rolemaster, as defenders of the manor. Under the right circumstances they gain new life acting as the guardians of the interior to protect it from thieves.

In a story telling manner though, the types of animals and monsters stuffed around the manor can provide clues and details as to the patterns and habits of the owners. If in their youth or in the founding of the wealth of the manor lords, they were renown gentlemen adventurers, having dinosaurs that were hunted and brought back for stuffing from the lands of the Isle of Dread speak more volumes than having a bear, even a dire bear, stuffed along the wall.

Some of the objects are weapon racks from ancient civilizations, next to the most modern and sleek weapons of the home society. These weapons could tell their own story if the GM wants to introduce a new weapon to the campaign or a player has a particular desire to use a different weapon. Alternatively, if the players are lacking a specific type of weapon, they may wind it here.

For example, if the players are in a hunt for werewolves, perhaps some of these weapons on display are of the silver variety. If hunting fey, perhaps of the cold iron variety.

Other things that would be out of place in most homes save for the rice? Games and toys. Fully painted wooden toys and perhaps even some famous game like chess but with pieces carved out of exotic materials.  Other even more expensive 'toys' might be like the telescope or in some editions of Dungeons and Dragons, the old Waterclock. If the game has a massive piece of equipment that is often out of range for dungeon crawling due to its size and cost, it may be found here with a room dedicated to its purpose.
The display of wealth lies heavily upon every object in the manor. The chairs are not merely chairs, but carved works of wooden art. The tables, massive things where even three people sitting cannot easily converse with one another or pass food back and forth requiring some sort of intermediary man servant to do such. The centerpieces of the table massive and view blocking. The fireplace in the dinning hall, massive enough to warm the entire room but also sending out waves of oppressing heat where comfort is stifled for all save the most comfortable in a warm climate environment.

The floors are either tiled and patterned or covered in ornamental rugs with foreign designs or draped over with some type of animal rug. In a fantasy setting, instead of a bear, it could be an owlbear.

The hallways in the manor are large enough to accommodate chairs and couches on one side and tables adorned with urns and vases on the other while still allowing people to walk through them. This doesn’t count the various candle holders and chandeliers placed throughout the manor nor did the massive windows spread thought or the murals and paintings placed about on various walls.

These wide areas and numerous objects could easily make for dramatic fighting hall and location. Priceless artifacts and objects de art being potentially smashed and ruined cutting into the treasure values that the players may loot at a later date.

Despite the abundant wealth obvious in every room, the weight of age sits upon the manor like a gauntleted fist crushing the life out of the inhabitants with relentless pressure. The manor is huge and vast, but so old that it appears in need of repair. Perhaps not an appropriate quote, but one that links itself to the terrors of the past, "The past is a wilderness of horrors."

The weight of the manor also comes through in the small things. The imagined chattering of children that are not there when a door is opened. The many rooms where once guests and dignitaries might have spent their time now covered in thick dust covered cloth.

The paintings are fantastical and priceless, but peeling and in need of being touched up and cleaned. The chairs covered with fantastic materials, are worn through and need to be reupholstered. The weapons, wither the latest fashions from the nearby lands or ancient and forgotten relics of a bygone era, are covered in grime and soot, requiring hours of painful maintenance in order to bring up to use again. Some of them so old and worn that to use them in combat might be the use of a one hit weapon where the steel is no longer any good and the weapon breaks under the stress of actual combat.

Light is generated either through the use of the windows allowing in the natural sunlight or the reflective moonlight. For those times when this natural lighting is not enough, there are hordes of candles shedding both flame and light. In the movie, those flames come to pass for their purpose of destruction showcasing that age is not proof against fire.

The crypts, separate from the main estate, had locations above ground that had winding stairwells leading down. The sarcophagi decorated with the finest carvings where the robes of the dead almost seem to flutter with the wind with the deepest crypts being so far below ground that they are carved out of the earth instead of being worked stone. Pushing through the ceiling, the roots and winding branches of the above trees poke through.

While not on the manor grounds proper in the movie, in a fantasy setting, the ‘asylum’ that the son goes to would make for some excellent torture chambers that could be hidden out of the way below the manor grounds proper, further explaining why the building itself it build off the main ground.

These chambers could include the room of elemental ice where servants use gears and cranks to dip an individual strapped down to a chain into water filled with frost. Another room where the character is electrocuted methodolicaly to make him numb.

Other rooms designed to hold individuals in their straight jackets while drugs are administered to them.  Of course once you've started adding these types of chambers, the 'traditional' ones with the Iron Maiden and other instruements of torture become easier to place.

The set screams out potential and if you watch the Wolf Man and come away with nothing else, the Talbot Hall alone makes it worth the price of the viewing.