“In off the moors, down through the mist bands,
God-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.
The bane of the race of men roamed forth,
hunting for prey in the high hall.”
Demon-spawn. God-cursed. Descendant of Cain. Whatever the truth may be, the lust for blood and flesh defines this monster’s existence, to the anguish of the Danes. Ascending from the darkness of his waterlogged lair, Grendel assaulted Heorot – the mead hall of Hrothgar – tearing men asunder, gnawing their flesh and drinking their life-blood. Their only crime against him being the making of joy and merriment, he terrorized Hrothgar and his Danes until the intervention of brave Beowulf, who tore his arm from its socket. Only then did Grendel – great and terrible – succumb to his wounds.
He awoke here, and now terrorizes the Forest of Decay. A realm without merriment. A forest who has never known the sounds of joy.
A veritable paradise for a being who lives only to cause pain.
In Visions of Zosimos, many aspects of the game draw upon real world history and mythology, with a bit of our own spin added in. The Alchemists and the Ego essences one uses to construct a homunculus all pull from these sources, as do many of our boss monsters, such as Grendel. Even broader elements come from actual history; Visions of Zosimos is the name of an actual book detailing alchemical lore.
With this being the case, we take great care to ensure that our sources are accurate, and strive to remain as faithful to the source material as we can while still bringing it into the mythos of our own universe. To that end, we employ research methods, normally looking at the earliest known translations of foreign texts. In addition, when using multiple sources we try to remain true to them by seeking out the commonalities between these myriad sources and using this information as the core of the game element we are creating.
But how does this all come together? When designing a boss monster, the first step is to answer a simple question – is this Boss going to be historical, or completely original? Grendel is certainly the former, being drawn from the epic poem Beowulf.
The next step is the research. This helps determine how much of our own creativity gets added to the base source. The only known manuscript of Beowulf was written in roughly 1000 AD, and (despite the best efforts of historians and librarians of the time) has suffered through the ages, the most notable being the Cotton Library fire at Ashburnham House in 1731. This means that, though there may have been a detailed physical description of Grendel at one time, the only surviving original copy of Beowulf contains very little. In later sources, Grendel’s qualities vary considerably, but the one commonality was simple: an ogreish being who devours men.
Originally, we designed Grendel as something radically different from previous representations. He was a thin, amphibious creature as seen above. However, while this was an interesting direction to take, it was not true enough to the original source, so he has since been altered to the form you saw earlier in this post. We did, however, keep some of the original reptilian feel, but stayed closer to the original vision of Grendel’s savage brutality.
Even here, though, the process was not complete. In deciding to use Grendel as a Boss Monster in the Forest of Decay board, it helped push us to make that board more influenced by Norse mythology and history, and several other Bosses have been included to enhance this feel. The mere act of including these Bosses together has helped us define the feel for one of our most major areas.
Finding and creating the lore for this game is a delicate balancing act. Applying our own spin and perspective is one of the most rewarding parts of pulling it all together, but our desire to keep close to the source means we must take care in deciding what we change, and how much. However, we are confident that the end result of this painstaking process is a great game backed up by fascinating lore.