Sunday, July 3, 2011

Legend of Zelda-ify your D&D Game!

Here I go, embarking on another series of posts. I will be continuing my FreeRPGDay reviews and giveaways, of course. The first winners have been posted, by the way, right here!

The Legend of Zelda video games are some of the most popular in the world, and I think they are often overlooked when we examine the resurgence of fantasy media in the past decade, in favor of The Lord of the Rings films and the oft-maligned but wildly popular World of Warcraft. Indeed, for many kids in my generation, the Legend of Zelda was their initial gateway to a world of swords and sorcery and monsters and dungeons. It was for me.

Over the years, the games have evolved with the technology level of the system they are played upon, but they have also retained some core qualities throughout, and many of these primary aspects can be quite useful to Dungeon Masters building a campaigns and adventures for their players. For Zelda nit-pickers, we are primarily examining the core console releases: Legend of Zelda, Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess.

1) Sandbox. Years before Grand Theft Auto, the first Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System pioneered the open sandbox. The game opens with the hero in the middle of the screen, with three directions to go, and a cave to enter. Enter the cave, get your sword, and go thee hence unto the wider world to explore. Certain areas, of course, were accessible only once the proper items were available to open them up.

2) Level-up. The method of growing your hero more powerful in the game has always been the same. You start with three hearts maximum life. At the end of every dungeon is a heart container that adds another heart to your maximum total. You also typically find some type of item that enables you to do more in the game, typically the ability to get to new areas or new weapons to fight smarter. You don't "level up" after aquiring a certain number of experience points, you do so after exploring a complicated area and vanquishing a powerful foe (and also by accomplishing the gathering of certain numbers of "pieces of heart" within the sandbox).

3) Two worlds, light and dark. Starting with "A Link to the Past", the Dark World was introduced, and the idea of two different worlds occupying the same or similar places has stuck around. In Ocarina of Time, it was the present and the future. In Wind Waker it was above and below the sea, and in Twilight Princess it was the shadow that had to be expunged by "Wolf Link".

4) Characters. Link. Zelda. Gannon. And the Triforce, reflecting all of them. These characters have been constant and make up the core of the conflict in the game. They represent each different aspect of the Triforce: Courage, Wisdom, and Power. This is a huge part of the mythology of the land of Hyrule, and is consistent throughout.

The next four posts in this series will examine how these principles can be applied to your D&D game.


  1. Cool! I'm looking forward to this series.

  2. (Statement of support)


    (The SNES game ruled)