Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Minimal Dungeons Redux

Nearly eight years ago, I wrote a post about Minimal Dungeon born of an observation that various example we have of keyed dungeons from back in the day were very terse with little notes. As you can see from Judges Guild Tegal Manor and the well known photo of Gary Gygax with his Greyhawk binder attached to this post.

Rob's Note: You can download the dungeon referred in my original post from here the Elf Lord's Temple.

Now both +Peter V. Dell'Orto  on Dungeon Fantastic and Delta on Delta's DnD Hotspot wrote about their observations. Both have the opinion that the format is useful for a referee's own notes but not acceptable for print publication. I disagree in part.

First off I concur that what we see in the attached photo is too terse. Even the published Tegel Manor suffers from terse although there the uses of map notes, and room titles makes it more usable. My opinion the root of the problem is the long shadow of adventures formatted tournament style. An adventure with a keyed map, with each keyed location fully describe with a introduction that provides an overall explanation and general notes.

The problem with the tournament format that it doesn't scale. There a limit to the size of a locale that can be effectively described in this format. Beyond with people get lost in the detail or the project itself is unfeasible for publication.  Nor does the tournament format work well when the focus of the adventure is on the interactions between different NPCs rather than on the exploration of a locale.

So what is the ideal format? I would contend there is no ideal format. The focus should be on teaching you the reader on how I, as the author, ran the adventure. Whatever does the trick for that particular adventure is the right choice.

It starts with you imagining sitting down with another referee and explaining how to run the adventure. Then taking what you imagined (and perhaps practiced on a friend) and writing that up so the rest of us can learn how to run that adventure.

For example +Zak Sabbath excels at using his talent as artist and writer to explain his adventures and supplements through a unique combination of written and visual elements.

What about minimal dungeons specifically. Let's look at Tegel Manor by Judges Guild. It compactly details a fundhouse dungeon in the form of a sprawling manorhouse with a small four level dungeon beneath. It does this through a combination of terse text, some random tables, room titles, and above all the map itself.

To be clear I am not holding Tegel Manor as a great example. Having run it twice now, it just on this side of plausibility. Along with I get little sense of how Bob Bledsaw Senior ran it outside of the obvious "it is a funhouse.".  However I think it only a little more to turn it into a a great example of a minimalist dungeon. About double the page count should do it and most of that would be in the beginning where one explains how the place works overall, and give some specific on areas of the dungeon. Then add a sentence or two to flesh out the different room and leave it at that.

I think the advantage of the minimalist approach that is plays into the default mode of referee which is largely a matter of improvisation as the players attempt various things as their character. The only time that a complete description of C14 Butler's Room is needed is for product oriented towards novice referee. Otherwise it just take too long during actual play to read that much text. And beyond a certain point it is too much to retain even if you read it all beforehand.

But it tricky. It is a fine line between too much and too little. Which is why if you are terse it is best to use a combination of technique written, visual art, and maps to teach somebody how to run that adventure.

Friday, March 9, 2018

City State Map spotted in the wild.

Thanks to Allan, Jon, and the Black Blade Publishing crew, my color City of the Invincible Overlord map made it debut at Gary Con. Wish I could have attended. But still if you want a copy the map is available on RPGNow for $10 print + shipping (around $3 to most of the USA).

Thanks to +Allan Grohe and +Guy Fullerton for the photos.

Update: I just learned from +Allan Grohe of Black Blade that they just all sold today. That was quick! Again thanks to the Black Blade Publishing crew for display my books and maps.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Scot Hoover aka Kellri needs your help

The OSR operates at a variety of different levels in the hobby and industry. Ranging from people who only blog, to full fledged publishers like Frog God Games and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Among these people are the folks that "really know their stuff" and are excellent at producing useful tools and reference.

One of these is Scot Hoover also known as Kellri. Since the beginning of the OSR he has operated a blog packed with useful information and most well known for the Classic Dungeon Designer Netbook series. Particularly for #4 Encounter Reference. The complete list of what he wrote can be found on the right edge of his blog. Currently he is midst of a massive multi-year project called Dangerous Dungeons. A open content update of the Encounter Reference that expands and extends that work for OSRIC.

Unfortunately he suffered a stroke Monday and needs help. He has two kids and lives in Vietnam teaching English. If you can help he has a GoFundMe page. He trying to raise $5,000 to cover the diagnostics and treatment he needs to recover from this. Hope everybody can help him reach his goal. As of Saturday he is halfway to his goal.