Thursday, October 11, 2012

Old School Dungeon Crawling is like Baseball *rant*

OK given the current controversy about why a certain semi-famous internet blogger's dungeon is suck, I figured I would not be a blogger worth my salt if I did not climb up on my almighty soapbox and throw my hat into the ring. I will not name names or provide links as I think innuendo and indirection are more appropriate to the rant format. The first comment is to note the disclaimer firmly placed on the blog that lit the fuse ""[name omitted] is a known shit-stirrer. He stirred the shit. He got banned. Asking what he did to stir the shit introduces unnecessary complication to the scenario, therefore he was banned for stirring the shit." The second comment which the basis of this rants title, is as I read the review and listened to what they complained about, it brought found memories of the way game of DnD was played back in my college days. Much like baseballs duel between the pitcher and batter, DnD was a duel between the DM and caller, with the other players waiting to spring into action once the magic words "Roll for Surprise (note: not initiative, that came later)" were uttered. Much like baseball players don't have much do until the ball is hit and have to amuse themselves in other ways, DnD players did much the same engaging in idle gossip and conversation. The empty rooms in the early editions heighten the tension, much like baseball's waiting for the ball to be hit, by introducing a random factor into when springing into action will be required. One factor I though might have contributed to the bad time had by all are that rather than sticking with the old, old, school approach of saying "its an empty room" and moving on, the author in his new improved version felt the urge to provide detailed descriptions for all rooms, thus slowing the pace of play down. Another factor I thought was the DM decision to run the dungeon "as written". To successfully DM one must draw upon the players at the tables motivations and desires to lure them into the shared fantasy, this requires adaptation of whatever you are running to the players at the table. Having been around long enough to run the same adventure for many different players, I know that different groups experience the same adventure differently. I am both bemused and dismayed, by the large quantity of Monday morning coaching going on on the internet (even as I contribute to it now).  If the reviewer was bored by playing the adventure, he was bored, no amount of commentary will change that. As my father was fond of saying "there is no accounting for taste". The current flame war reminds me of a certain other flame war of a year or two passed, when a certain Finnish bloggers abrasive clockwork dungeon was labeled as suck, because the players turned left when they should have turned right. Its not the first flame war in the OSR and it won't be the last. Don't take any one's word for what's good or bad, make up you own mind. And remember "if your not having fun, your doing it wrong".

Monday, October 8, 2012

Elminsters Forgotten Realms

"Ed Greenwood presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms" the newest Wizard's of Coast splat books. One of the splatiest offerings to come down the pike in a long time, I mean even the title pretentious, as if we had been playing in someone else's Forgotten Realms" all this time. Filled with information such as forgotten realms slang, popular literature of the realms, and Tethyrian cuisine, you find no actionable gaming material within (unless you are making  "Trival Pursuit, the Forgotten Realms edition"). And yet I cannot write it off completely, for scattered within are copies of Ed Greenwoods typewritten notes from the original manuscript (although on far too pages). As one always fond of peeking behind the curtain, I find old notes intriguing in a manner no "gussied up" splat book can match. Would that they had published a book of Ed's notes instead of the rest of this clap-trap (I am still waiting for a full description of level 4 of Undermountain as well). I am also totally using the troll cart on the cover for a wilderness encounter as well. Not as disappointing as the new 40K Chaos Space Marines Codex, but that is a story for another blog.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I am working my way through Steve Erikson's "Tales of the Malazan Empire" series. I find he manages to maintain the gritty fantasy of "The Black Company" and "A Song of Ice and Fire" but add a wildly imaginative spin on magic that I find quite appealing and a little more DnDish than the other two series. Although the series is very high magic with earth shattering spells that can change the world, that fact that it is usually told from the view point of a common soldier dodging nimbly aside as the god duel makes it accessable. I also like the way combines a renaissance empire with tribal stone age warriors and makes it work. I am only through the first four books but I highly recommend it.

**Warning Mild Spoilers **

Roleplaying ideas collected so far :

Lurking ancient evils
Imperial Assassins
Floating Elven Cities
Elves that turn into dragons
Magic that is accessed by tapping into different worlds
A deck of cards which maps the worlds of magic
A dead God who returns to life when blood is spilled on his altar
An immortal storm raging the dessert
A Book promising the return of a prophet to rule the world
A rising of the Desert tribes once the book has been returned
A ruined ancient city destroyed by  a half-Jaghut (Jhag) who no longer remembers who destroyed the city and seeks revenge for its destruction
The Jhag's body guard who's job it is to kill the Jhag if his memories come back
A mine of anti-magic stone
A boat rowed by undead rowers
An Imperial Army cut off by the desert tribes fighting its way back to the last Imperial held City
A magical delivery service which warps its way through the planes of magic to travel
A Jaghut entombed in magical ice to hide it from the T'lan Imass
A Cannibal Army
A city floating on an iceberg

Monsters include:

Soultaken Mages capable of transforming into beasts
Giant Dragonflies capable of carrying troops
T'lan Imass Undead servitors of the empress capable of merging with the earth then popping up later
T'lan Ayss the T'lan Imasses Undead Dogs
Jaghut Inhuman sorcerer kings of tremendous power hunted by the T'lan Imass
Giant Ravens with magic powers
flying piranha fish
a sea monster sized aquatic centipede capable of sinking ships
K'chan Mal Chan Giant undead hook horrors

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