Jun 2, 2010

Dwarves, HammerTalk, and Morse Code in Your Game

One of the things I really like about the Dragonlance setting is the wealth of detail the various developers put into the setting from it's earliest 1e days, all the way through it's 3.5 days (and for all you 4e players, your PHB3 Minotaur character owes more than a nod to the Dragonlance version going all the back to the 1e Adventures book Weis and Hickman co-authored).

Case in point, when TSR created the War of the Lance sourcebox, the definitive 2e document for the Dragonlance setting, they added a lot of seemingly 'fluffy' details that had almost no game value. One thing along that line was a dwarven language called Hammertalk.

The idea of Hammertalk is that dwarves, in their mountain cities, can communicate by using their hammers to bang out messages that can be heard over great distances. For me (and I'm sure I'm not alone), the first analogy I thought of was Morse Code.

More recently, for my own campaign, I've been thinking of building a treasure map with a secret message embedded in the artistic border of the map. Since I don't want to build elaborate ciphers or cryptograms, the idea of leveraging Hammertalk (and Morse Code) popped into my head.

The next puzzle piece that made this even easier to implement was the fact that thanks plenty of enterprising people, there are a number of Morse Code translators available online. These pages allow you to enter a string of text and generate the Morse Code message for it (shown as dots and dashes).

The dot and dash output is really great because you can copy and paste the output into your favorite word processing program, and with a little search and replace use whatever symbols you want, like circles and triangles, or open circles and filled circles, or--you get the point!

I'll post some examples in a future update.