Monday, April 29, 2024

Review of The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg

 This dungeon is a reproduction of Greg Svenson’s dungeon. Greg was one of the early players in Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor campaign and is immortalized in the First Fantasy Campaign as the Great Svenny. According to Greg, it was produced in the summer of 1973 using the draft Dungeons and Dragons rules. As such it is one of the first dungeons ever produced predating the publication of the original Dungeon and Dragons rules. When this book showed up first as an add-on to the Secrets of Blackmoor I gave it a pass (I routinely avoid printed things in Kickstarter as a .pdf is much more likely to show up and does not take up shelf space). However, after it had been delivered as an actual book to Kickstarter supporters, and a second printing was offered on the publisher's website my fear of missing out kicked in and ponied up the $100 for a hardback copy.

Overall this book is well printed with a nice cloth binding and a ribbon bookmark. I enjoyed most of the book. I have not subjected the dungeon to the “2000 copper piece test” i.e. do the starting levels of the dungeon contain enough experience to allow the characters to advance in power sufficiently to tackle the deeper levels below. I am happy I purchased this (although I didn’t like the months of nail-biting while waiting for them to finish the reprint). Now it has gone to yet another printing I’d probably buy the more reasonably priced softcover version. I will say that it is more interesting to me as a piece of history than something I would try and run my players through.

A section-by-section review follows below. I don’t think anything below constitutes a spoiler of the actual content.

The book starts with a disclaimer about this being old stuff and feeling free to modify it as you see fit

Part 1 An explanation of the origins of the original manuscript, how it was lost, and how recently a copy resurfaced. A reproduction of the original manuscript as is. This is something I already had as it was briefly available on the web prior to the decision to republish it.

Part 2 is a long discussion on how the game was played back in the day. It is quite intriguing to review this part and contemplate how the game has shifted during my long years of playing

Part 3 is a redrawing of the original map with a rekeying of the map to modern role-playing standards. Good because one no longer has to squint and try to read the squiggling in thick felt tip. Not so good in that giving stat for each individual monster in the encounter takes much more space than writing four clerics, three skeletons, etc. Most rooms have been given a name and a brief description of how they fit in the dungeon.

Part 4 Game rules for Champions of Zero Edition Dungeoneering (ZED). Unfortunately, this feels like a bit of padding since the Champions of ZED is already available elsewhere (I have a copy in my .pdf collection). A ruleset more closely constructed towards the pre-Gygaxian Arsonian game would been of more interest. Although construction of such a game at this point in history is a task of Herculean proportions. Champions of ZED is not a bad choice, since it is an actual original edition retro-clone, as opposed to most retro-clones which are based on Advanced Dungeons and Dragons or even Basic Dungeons and Dragons.

Part 5  Tresure rules for ZED

Part 6 Monsters for ZED

Part 7 Spells for ZED

Part 8 Appendices

Appendix A is a table for rolling random encounters and restocking the dungeon. Based on Creature Type rather than specific monsters. Appendix B is a list of further reading, not very long. I have three of them, I‘ll need to hunt the other two down.

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