Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book Review: The Keep by F. Paul Wilson

I have to admit that I'm a lover of books. I read voraciously--normally three or four fiction books a week as well as one (maybe two) non-fiction books a week. I invariably have stacks of books in my "To Read" pile (even if that stack is mostly electronic these days), and even more in my Wish List at Amazon. Earlier this week I decided that I would pick a book from my To Read pile at random, by rolling a d20.The idea was that maybe it would bring up something that's been there for awhile and get me something to read that's a bit different than what I would normally choose on my own. I rolled a d20 and the result was _The Keep_, a novel by F. Paul Wilson.

The blurb from Amazon is fantastic:

""Something is murdering my men."

Thus reads the message received from a Nazi commander stationed in a small castle high in the remote Transylvanian Alps. And when an elite SS extermination squad is dispatched to solve the problem, the men find a something that's both powerful and terrifying. Invisible and silent, the enemy selects one victim per night, leaving the bloodless and mutilated corpses behind to terrify its future victims. Panicked, the Nazis bring in a local expert on folklore--who just happens to be Jewish--to shed some light on the mysterious happenings. And unbeknownst to anyone, there is another visitor on his way--a man who awoke from a nightmare and immediately set out to meet his destiny.

The battle has begun: On one side, the ultimate evil created by man, and on the other...the unthinkable, unstoppable, unknowing terror that man has inevitably awakened."

The first thing I wanted to point out from the blurb is the word "Something" in the letter the commander sends back. This is what catches the attention of the Nazi leadership to send someone to handle this situation. The second thing to point out is that the German army officer leading the detachment is not a Nazi, which is why he's there in the first place.

Captain Klaus Woermann is a decorated Army officer. During WWI he won the Iron Cross for gallantry for single handedly holding off a British platoon from overrunning his position. However his refusal to join the Nazi part means he's been condemned to guard duty, rather than leading troops in the front line. He is sent with a small detachment of men to a remote pass in Romania to set up a guard post in an ancient keep. 

When the captain arrives at the castle he notices a few things immediately. The first is that it's in impeccable condition. No debris or dust, no ruined buildings, nothing. The second is that the walls of the castle are completely covered in what appear to be crosses. These crosses cover every surface of the walls of the castle and appear to be made of gold and silver. The third unusual thing is that there are no birds in the castle. 

He finds out that the castle has been maintained and cleaned by a man and his two sons. The man's father watched over the castle and his grandfather and great-grandfather, all the way back. The money for the upkeep is delivered to the local inn keeper who pays them in gold coins. The man is adamant that the men not stay the night in the keep, and when he sees a soldier trying to pry one of the crosses off the wall he warns the Captain not to allow that to happen or dire things will happen. This soldier's name is Lutz, and he is assigned guard duty for a week as punishment. 

The Captain excuses the man and dismisses him, but has an uneasy feeling about the situation.

Later that night, while on guard duty, Lutz notices that there is a discrepancy in the thickness of the walls. He knows that there must be a treasure or secret tunnel and is convinced that it's papal treasure. Why else all the crosses? He pries at the cross, eventually managing to pop it loose and when he does so he's able to shift the block out of the way, exposing the entrance to a tunnel. Getting the other soldier on sentry to come help him, he then heads into the dark looking for treasure.

He's the first to die. 

Eventually German command sends an SS commander to clean things up. He's just been assigned to the task of setting up a death camp in Romania and knows that if he doesn't get this resolved quickly his chance to command the camp will be put in jeopardy. There's an added bonus--he knows the Captain from WWI. He ran when the British platoon advanced, while the Captain stayed to fight. 

I won't go through the rest of the plot, but I did want to point out some things I liked and some things I didn't like about the book.

--the keep is fantastic.
--the idea of a family who have maintained for generations is great
--who doesn't like secret passages and rooms?
--the characters are done very well. Distinct voices for all the main ones, and even the minor ones. 
--I loved the conflict between the Captain and the SS commander
--the Jewish professor and his daughter were a great element
--F. Paul Wilson's plot was great. There were some fairly predictable things, but a few things that caught me by surprise.
--I loved how he treated the vampire myth.

Things I didn't like:
--the final conflict. It was very anti-climatic
--the ending in general. He'd set up this fantastically creepy scenario and then it felt like he didn't know what to do with it.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Despite my disappointment with the ending (which I felt was weak), I'd still give this a 4 star rating. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Twenty Dungeon Entrances

For your enjoyment here are twenty images to use as inspiration for your dungeon's entrance. Many of them come from _Subterranean Design_, a tumblr blog that I can't recommend too highly.

1.) A small hole in the side of a hill

2.) A sea cave

3.) What's behind the doors?

4.) A hole in the ground

5.) Old mine shaft?

6.) Underneath the tower is the entrance to the dungeon.

7.) At least three ways into the dungeon--or are there three separate dungeons?

8.) Even mega dungeons have separate entrances for servants.

9.) Another sea cave.

10.) The guardian of the entrance

11.) Hopefully you can pick the lock--I don't think this door can be broken down.

12.)  Creepy entrance

13.) A jungle entrance

14.) Hobbiton?

15.) This looks like something that Bran Mak Morn would take on. Not me though.

16.) This doesn't look safe.

17.) The way is shut. It was made by those who were dead, and the dead keep it. The way is shut.

18.) Sometimes even the wizard is helpless.

19.) Ice cave

20.) Secret fortress for the super villain? 

And a bonus. I hope there aren't any alligators down there.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Five Minute Maps: Doctor Teslo's Amazing Circus & Carnival

Matt Jackson over at lapus calumni has done a great thing. Just recently he's started drawing a map every day in a new moleskine that he purchased. He's then come up with an idea to get everybody involved in doing maps and he's called it Five Minute Map Friday. The idea behind it is as simple as the title. You have five minutes to draw a map of whatever you want. At five minutes you're done with it. If you want to share it on G+ use the hashtag  #fridayfiveminutemap. If you don't want to share it, no big deal.

I suck at drawing maps. While they do all manage to convey the information needed (where things are at and how far apart things are from each other) they look awful. Despite this (or maybe because of it) I absolutely love looking at maps. I love maps that are of historical value, I love maps that have interesting information and maps that don't. In fact, one of my favorite D&D characters that I ever played was a ranger who was basically sent out to explore and map new lands.

My goal is to do a map every day. Since I actually want to learn how to make them pretty I'll probably spend longer than five minutes on them, but every Friday I'll do a five minute map. Some of them I'll show here, some of them I won't. 

Today's map is of the traveling circus of one Doctor Teslo. Nobody knows what he actually looks like--he keeps hidden in his big tent all the time. Most of the performers have never seen him because the ringmaster Darakshan Anayis does all the hiring and firing. She's not to be crossed. Foul tempered, quick with her curved daggers, and some say she has magic that she stole from a djinn. 

The circus keeps to it's own schedule. It never posts times when it'll be in town and it disappears at a whim. Sometimes it stays in a place for weeks, sometimes barely 24 hours. Townsfolk will see an empty field one day and then the next a fully set up circus and they'll have no idea how it happened.

Even with the sudden arrivals and departures the circus is always packed. Those who go there are drawn like moths to a flame. Work, family, pleasure are all unimportant--what they know is that something that they must see is in one of those tents. 

They're correct. Every tent has something unusual and unique. The trained horses do impossible tricks. The food stalls sell food that seems to enhance the senses. The freak shows are truly freakish. As special as these attractions are, there are a few tents that are even more amazing and that only a few manage to find.

The tent of Arjeta the Toothless
Arjeta is an old crone with no teeth. For the right price she'll cast her bones and tell your fortune (it's rumored that she yanked out her own teeth to use as her bones for casting) or answer one question. Her answers are always correct, even if the listener can't understand them. 

The tent of Esaro the fat
Esaro is an enormously fat man, but don't let that bulk fool you. He's surprisingly quick and nimble and has prodigious strength. In his tent you can find your heart's desire. If you don't know what your heart's desire is, he'll gladly show it to you. Be careful about bargaining with him, because his price is always the thing that means the most to you. 

The tent of Blanat the Ageless
If you manage to find Blanat's tent then you are a special individual indeed. Those who find her tent have a wandering spark inside them that drives them on. These are they who are not happy with the mundane and ordinary and who want to achieve great things or see wondrous lands. Blanat has the power to send travelers to worlds beyond mortal knowing. She holds to a higher oath and seeks those who will labor for a cause in a strange land. Time works differently in other worlds, so if you accept the call to go and fight if you return you may find that no time at all has passed or that decades have passed. 

Every traveler who has completed a mission she has set them to will find themselves immortalized by the bards and poets of that world.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Real Life Megadungeons: Chavin de Huantar, Peru

At first blush Chaven de Huantar isn't much to look at. There aren't any really grand buildings or huge underground tunnels. The site was first established sometime around 1200 B.C. and abandoned around 500 B.C. It was occupied by a number of different cultures but the last one to occupy it were the Chavin culture, one of the many pre-Inca cultures in Peru. 

What makes the place unique in my opinion is how it was designed. The builders specifically included acoustical properties in the complex so that the priests can manipulate sound so that worshipers can hear it at a stele located in a central place.

From an article on the subject from Popular Archaelogy:

Says Miriam Kolar, Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow, PhD Candidate
 at Stanford University and leader of the study: 

"At Chavín, we have discovered acoustic evidence for selective sound transmission between the site's Lanzon monolith and the Circular Plaza: an architectural acoustic filter system that favors sound frequencies of the Chavín pututus [conch-shell trumpets] and human voice."

The Lanzon is a sacred statue or stela depicting the central deity of the ancient Chavín culture. It is housed in the central chamber of a series of underground passages within the Old Temple of the ceremonial and religious center of Chavín de Huántar. A central duct was built to connect the area of the monolith with that of the Circular Plaza, a place of ceremonial activity and significance. The duct was specifically designed to filter to a certain sound range -- namely, the range emitted by the Chavín pututu instrument.

Some images:

The outside.

Some tunnels:

A denizen? A goddess? A demon?

 This guy is too cheerful to be a head mounted to a wall. I wouldn't trust anything he says.

A conch shell used in ceremonies. Maybe to summon the goddess or wake the stone heads?

Something that I find particularly interest is this glyph of some sort of winged creature. Maybe another denizon of the dungeon or a god watching over it? However I also had a thought--what if you used this as a framework for a city? It could make an excellent map for a city center I think.

Same image cleaned up a bit

And now made very recognizable:

And now a map of the complex:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Real Life Megadungeons: Ayutthaya, Thailand

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I love to use real life as inspiration for my gaming. Yesterday this image popped up in my RSS reader courtesy of the tumblr blog Subterranean Design (a blog that everybody needs to be following):

The head is normally above water

The image immediately resonated with me, so 45 minutes later and the magic of Google I learned the following. The image is from the city of Ayutthaya in Thailand, which was founded in 1350. The dynasty ruled until 1765 when an invading Burmese force of some 40,000 soldiers sacked the city. Just a few years later the Burmese army was forced to withdraw because of the threat of an invasion of Burma by Chinese armies, leaving the city of Ayutthaya in ruins.

The founders of the city chose well in picking the site. It's at a junction of three rivers, as well as being placed on a main trade route. Part of the city (the "old city" as it's called) is actually located on an island.

Some examples of the city's architecture:

(photo by Justin Gaurav Murgai)

A possible dungeon entrance?

Another oracle?

Painting of the city that was ordered to be done by the Dutch East India Tea Company:

And another one

Where's the dungeon you ask? Simple--just imagine that all the pagodas and towers are linked with underground tunnels and passageways. Or better yet don't even imagine that there's a dungeon--there's enough ruined structures and buildings to keep a party busy for awhile.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Elephant Man

So there's this German guy by the name of Talhoffer. He wrote a really famous book on medieval fighting techniques that's simply called the Fechtbucher, or as it's translated "Fightbook". He actually wrote several of them, but the one I'm going to talk about was written in 1459. In it he illustrates different fighting techniques for just about every kind of personal combat you can imagine. He also illustrates a few different siege machines for good measure.

However, what caught my ey most of all was this particular illustration:

At first glance it appears to be some sort of weird hybrid between an elephant and a human, i.e. "Elephant Man". Perfect for a weird and unsightly creature for your players to run into in their journeys and adventurings.

It's actually a design for a diving suit. The long nose is actually a tube that would run above the sufarce of the water and then attach to another tube, which would then be attached to a set of bellows. The bellows would be pumped furiously to allow the diver to breathe while underwater.

Not too long ago the National Geographic channel ran a special on Talhoffer and the Fightbook, and one of the things they did was to test the dive suit out. Surprisingly enough, it worked perfectly, though I don't know if they used modern materials or period accurate materials in it's construction.

If you want to look at the Fightbook, you can as the whole thing is online in all it's lavish detail.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Modeling a fight in 7th Sea: Inigo fights Count Rugen

If you're looking to gain a deeper understanding of your game system (whatever it might be) a useful tool is to find a fight scene from a movie that's appropriate to the genre and then model it using the game you play.

7th Sea was written by the good people at AEG (makers of Legends of the 5 Rings), and uses d10s and the roll & keep system. I love the genre, and I love the mechanics of the game, so I decided some time back to model a fight sequence out of The Princess Bride. The fight sequence I chose was the final showdown between Count Rugen and Inigo. This is after Inigo has beaten off hordes of mooks, has chased Rugen into the dining hall, and then been struck by a well thrown dagger from Count Rugen. 

Inigo has 1 Dramatic wound due to the knife in his gut from Count Rugen's earlier throw. My 7th Sea house rule states that players lose one die for every Dramatic Wound up until they hit the number of Dramatic Wounds equal to their Resolve, at which point the normal rules of 7th Sea come in to play. Since Inigo has one Dramatic Wound he now loses one die on each of his rolls (so an attack that would normally be r7k4 is now r6k4). He has 3 Drama Dice available to him (2 from his lowest Trait of Brawn and 1 from earlier actions in the sequence).

Inigo leans against the wall, his hand shoved into his stomach to keep his blood from spilling all over the floor. Through the pain he can see Count Rugen just out of reach. "To come so far, only to fail now?" What must his father think of his quest now?

"I've got to get up!" he tells himself, and he forces himself to his feet.
Count Rugen looks at him "Are you still trying to win?", he asks scornfully, as Inigo falls back against the wall again.

"You've got an overdeveloped sense of vengeance," spits Rugen, as he draws his sword. "It's going to get you into trouble someday."

Combat begins with the two rolling iniative. Rugen does not have any of his Brutes around, so he must rely on his Henchman skills to defeat the Hero Inigo.

Rugen rolls 5 dice for action (Panache 2, Attack (Fencing) 3). Inigo rolls 6 dice for combat (3 Panache, 4 Attack (Fencing). The -1 penalty is due to his Dramatic Wound.

Rugen gets a 5, 6, 6, 6, 9 on his roll. Inigo gets 1, 4, 4, 6, 9, 9,

Phase 1: Inigo would normally get to go first, but he decides to hold his action.
Phase 2: Neither player has an action die in this phases, and Inigo continues to hold his
Phase 3: The GM decides he'd better spend a drama dice to allow Count Rugen to act (The GM has 3 DD available to him. 2 for Inigo's lowest Trait, plus 1 for the sole member of the party). Rugen makes an attack on Inigo, who is using his passive defense. Rugen rolls exceptionally well, getting a 10, 10, 6, 5, 3. He can only keep two of those, so he keeps the 10s and rerolls them. The results are an 8 and 8, for a total of 36. Inigo takes his held action from phase 1 and spends an action die from phase 4 (since he's lying against the wall it takes 2 action die to mount an active defense instead of 1) to mount an Active Defense. This allows him to roll 6k3 (3 Wits + 3 Parry). The results are a 10, 8, 7, 6, 6, 2, 1. Re-rolling the 10 gives him another 6, for a total of 35, which is not quite enough to beat Rugen's attack.

Inigo lays against the wall to support his shaky legs. Pain clouds his vision, making it difficult for him to concentrate. He sees Rugen draw his sword and lunge, but he has no hope of blocking that attack, merely thrusting it away from his heart. 

The tip of the sword pierces his shoulder, doing 2k2 damage (12 flesh wounds). Inigo has to roll to see if that Flesh Wound becomes a Dramatic Wound. His Resolve is a 3, allowing him to roll 3k3. He rolls poorly: 2, 2, 4, for 8 total. He decides to spend one of his Drama dice to add 5 to that result. He now has 12 points of Flesh Wound to deal with, but no additional Dramatic Wounds.

Phase 4: Inigo has one action die this phase, but again decides to hold it.
Phase 5: Rugen again attacks Inigo. Rugen does not roll as well this time around as he did his previous attack. This result is 9, 7, 7, 4, 1. He keeps the 9 and 7, which is still enough to beat Inigo's passive defense of 5. Inigo decides to spend one of his action die from phase 4 and one from phase 9, to mount an active defense, with a result of 6, 4, 4, 2, 3, 1, which is not enough to beat the attack. He holds on to his remaining 2 Drama Dice figuring he'll probably need them to soak damage. Again Rugen rolls 2k2 for damage for a total of 6. Now Inigo must beat a target number of 18 Flesh Wounds to prevent another Dramatic wound. He rolls his Resolve and gets a 10, 4, 2. He re-rolls the 10, getting a 7, for a total result of 23, more than enough to soak that final wound.

Rugen looks down on Inigo "At last I can finish this insolent fool off", he mutters as he lunges at Inigo again. The blade sinks into Inigo, but instead of into the heart as Rugen expected, Inigo has somehow managed to move the point of his sword into his shoulder. Another flesh wound, but not a killing blow. Rugen is now starting to get worried. Will this damn fool not realize that he's finished?

Phase 6: Rugen has 3 action die this phase, and Inigo has one. Since they both have action die, the total remaining die are added up to see who goes first. Inigo has his action die from phase and from phase 9 for a total of 15. Rugen has 6, 6, and 6, having spent his action die from phase 9 to move earlier for a total of 18. Rugen gets to go first. The GM decides to use another Drama Die to add to Rugen's roll, allowing him to r6k3. The results are 10, 9, 8, 4, 3, 1. Rugen re-rolls the 10 for an additional 6, bringing his attack to a total of 25, which beats Inigo's passive defense by five Raises. Inigo uses the action die from this phase and the last one from phase 9 to make an active defense. He also spends a drama die to add to his roll and he rolls 7k3. 10,3,3,4,2,1,4. The result of the re-roll of the 10 is a 6, for a total result of 24. Not enough to escape the wound entirely, but at least it doesn't give Rugen a Raise.

Again Rugen lunges at Inigo, this time with a sense of panic. What is keeping this man going? Surely he can't have any more strength to fight back, so why is he? Count Rugen makes sure this lunge is correct, but again is thwarted by the blade of Montoya, who somehow manages to divert the point of his sword from a killing thrust to the flesh of his arm.

Rugen rolls a 15 for damage, making for a total of 33 Flesh Wounds that Inigo now has to soak to avoid another Dramatic Wound. Inigo spends his last Drama die to add one to his Resolve roll, giving him a total of r4k3. Results are 10, 8, 3, 7. Rerolling the 10 gives an 8, for a total of 33, barely enough to take the damage. Inigo can not afford any more flesh wounds.
Phase 6: Panicked, Rugen now spends his last Drama Die for a chance at another attack on Inigo. 6, 5, 5, 2, 2 are the results. An 11 is not nearly enough to take on Inigo, and he's able to easily block Rugen's thrust. He then launches an attack of his own on count Rugen with a result 14, not enough to beat Rugen's passive defense.
Phase 7: Inigo activates his Arcana of "Focused", to temporarily shift one point from his Brawn to his Panache to give him another die on his attack. He then launches one more attack.

In a blind panic Rugen thrusts with his sword at the bleeding Inigo Montoya. Montoya easily parries this blow, and stumbles to his feet.
"Hello," he says. "My name is Inigo Montoya, prepare to die."

This line draws appreciative chuckles and applause from the group and the GM awards Inigo a Drama die, bringing his remaining total to 2.

Round 2
Rugen: 1, 1, 1, 5, 7
Inigo: 1, 2, 2, 7, 7, 7, 9 Inigo can now roll 7k3, instead of 6k3 since he activated his Arcana.
Phase 1: Inigo holds his action. Rugen attacks and the two highest dice only total 12, not nearly enough. Inigo easily parries. Rugen attacks again, scoring a total of 18, enough to beat Inigo's passive defense (restored to 15 now that he's standing up). Inigo spends his held action die to mount an active defense, totaling 21, easily enough to parry the attack.

"Prepare to die". The statement chilled Count Rugen to the bone. He thought that he had Montoya at his mercy, and here he was standing up and getting ready to attack. He knew he could still beat him, as he was healthy and Inigo had a gaping wound in his stomach and three other wounds

"How does he manage to stay up?" he screamed to himself. "It's not natural!" He launched a series of attacks on Inigo, which were easily parried as his sword was driven into the massive dining table.

Phase 2: Rugen panics and spends his last two action die of this round to attack. The first attack results in a score of 20. Inigo spends his first die from this phase to mount an active defense and easily beats that. The second attack from Rugen results in 14, which is not enough.

Inigo stands up, advancing on Count Rugen. "Hello", he says with a sneer on his lips "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Rugen lunged wildly at Inigo, but his sword was easily beaten aside. Inigo felt his father's presence with him, guiding his sword. It seemed to have a life of its own, as he advanced on the craven Count Rugen.

Phase 2: Inigo attacks Rugen. He gets to r3k7, and scores 10, 7, 7, 5, 4, 2, 1 and a re-roll of 9, for a total of 26. Rugen's passive defense is 15, so Inigo beats him by 2 raises. He rolls poorly on the damage, for only 2 points of damage.

It's now Inigo's turn to attack. After the brief flurry of blows from Rugen, he launches himself at Rugen, easily brushing aside Rugen's defenses and slamming Rugen into the table. "Hello," he says again with a smile. "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Phase 3 thru 6: Inigo continues to advance on Rugen through the cluttered dining room. "Hello", he says with growing conviction. "You killed my father. Prepare to die."
Phase 7: Inigo has 3 attacks this round and plans on using them all. He rolls 20 on the first one and jabs Rugen in the right shoulder for 16 Flesh Wounds. Rugen does not make the soak and takes one Dramatic Wound. He rolls 18 on the next and jabs Rugen in the left shoulder for 13 Flesh Wounds. Rugen rolls a 12 and does not soak these, taking another Dramatic Wound. Rugen's dice now do not explode since he has taken a number of Dramatic wounds equal to his Resolve.
Phase 8: Inigo backs Rugen up to the last table.
Phase 9: Inigo is going to make an all out attack. He calls for 2 Raises because he wants to make a dramatic disarming of the count. He spends his 2 Drama dice to add to the kept dice on his roll, meaning he can now roll 9 and keep 3. Count Rugen doesn't stand a chance. Inigo's roll is a 10, 10, 9, 8, 6, 4, 5, 7, 1. The re-rolls are a 10 and a 9. The final re-roll is a 9, for a grand total of 57. Inigo's success is legendary, beating Rugen's passive defense by 42 points!

Inigo's last attack is all out. He attacks Rugen, his blade singing with his father's spirit. A complicated wrist maneuver and Rugen is now disarmed, and at his mercy.

A quick slash and Rugen now has a scar on his right cheek to match Inigo's.

Another slash and there's a scar on the left. Rugen begins begging for his life, offering Inigo anything he wants.
"Money?" asks Inigo
"Yes!" cries Rugen
"Land? Wealth? Power?"
"Yes, yes. Anything you want!" cries Rugen, oblivious to the cold glare of Inigo.

"I want my father back, you son-of-a-bitch" says Inigo as he thrusts the blade of his sword into Rugen's heart.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sedlec Ossuary

I mentioned Sedlec in Monday's blog post. I figured it would be good to give a bit more information about this rather famous (and creepy) place.

In Prague there is a chapel that contains the bones of up to 70,000 people. These bones are laid out in geometric shapes. Some of them have been crafted into various objects such as chandeliers or coats of arms.

The story goes that in 1278 the abbot of the monastery was sent to the Holy Land by King Otakar II of Bohemia. When he returned he brought back some dirt and sprinkled it in the abbey.

This association with the Holy Land led to many people, especially aristocracy, seeking it out for their burials. During the 100 Years War. The 14th century saw the Black Death kill many thousands of people, and the 15th century saw the Hussite wars do the same. Eventually the cemetery ran out of room, and in 1511 (according to legend) the task of exhuming the bodies was given to a half blind monk.

In 1870 František Rint was hired to bring some semblance of an order to the tens of thousands of bones.

I don't know why it is that so many early (for relative values of early) Christian churches and monasteries have this bone fetish. Sedlec may be unique in the sheer number of bones that are collected there, but it's certainly not unique in collecting and displaying bones or other remains.

How to apply this to your game?

--that many bones is just plain creepy, no matter how jaded your explorers are

--maybe the geometric shapes formed by the bones are actually Shapes of Power designed to do nasty things?

--why make the objects out of bones? Maybe they have some magical properties?

--what if a necromancer commanded all of those bones to rise at once? I don't think there's a group alive that wouldn't run in terror. 

Such an a normal looking church for the weirdness that lies within.