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Posts Tagged ‘old school

The Art of Dungeoncraft

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I should be doing something entirely else really. Actually I should be finishing the last few things for my MA. But what do I do? Writing an One Page Dungeon.
For the uninitiated: dungeons are the natural habitat of player characters and monsters. For some reason the best and easiest setting to set roleplaying games in was and is an underground lair or something like that. Room after room of monsters, treasures, and traps. Yay! Adventure! Moria for all!
For some reason RPGs never really managed to get away from those. And in many cases they never really tried. (there is a reason the most famous RPG is called Dungeons&Dragons…)
Retroclones, as mentioned before, try to emulate a lot of those old times, and dungeons are a big part of that.
So it comes as kind of a surprise that they, with that, actually are embracing a special sort dungeons, treating dungeons as a sort of art form: dungeons limited to one page only, with map and everything.¹

How much story and adventure can one relate on only one page?

A lot.
Building a dungeon becomes minimalistic art: short sentences, only the most needed of comments, and the dungeon’s map as part of this storytelling. Is it a 70s style TSR-blue dungeon? Is it handdrawn? What’s on the map, what isn’t? And so these dungeons can range from bad to good, and sometimes they move into sheer excellency (look at this guys OPDs for example!).
So why the sudden interest in this kind of dungeon? The One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 has it’s submission date this weekend, and I want to take part. I would have liked to playtest the dungeon before handing it in, but well, that will have to wait until next week or so.

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Written by G. Neuner

25. February 2010 at 6:07 am

Serial Numbers Filed Off

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Labyrinth Lord is original Dungeons and Dragons with serial numbers filed off. It seems that Wizards of the Coast, by open sourcing their game mechanics in the early 2000s, also opened them up to be retrocloned to older rulesets that were not part of the original deal. And so LL has nearly everything a group needs to play as if it was 1977. The word is “retrogaming“, and it has been rather popular lately, mostly carried by guys who have been D&D/RPG players in the first years of the hobby. And there is more to that little part of the hobby than only Labyrinth Lord with it’s evocation of 1970s/80s fanzine quality. Sword&Wizardry tries to evoke the aura of even earlier sets of D&D, OSRIC tries to be AD&D 1st ed., Mutant Future tries to be Gamma World.

Now, I’m obviously not part of that age group that seems to be so fascinated by those old-school games. Not as much as those people in their 40s and 50s are who played D&D back when it was fresh and new. I’m not even close to that. My first experience with roleplaying games came in the mid-90s with Germany’s very own “Das Schwarze Auge” (The Dark Eye), although I can relate to them desiring simpler and faster rules than what is current now. The new version of D&D (4th edition) appears to me a as a bloated, overdone try to rip off World of Warcraft. Even the 3rd edition, which I used for a long time and had lots of fun with, always appeared to me as overly complicated. Maybe the reason for that was that the first time I played DSA back then I was using the Beginner¹ rules, which were the rules of it’s 1st edition: fast, easy, and a lot of fun. They had their very own problems. but I never lost the feeling that roleplaying games should be played like that: fast and loose, story over rules, a quick decision in favor of hour long battles.

On the other hand there is a certain dogmatism in the retrogaming community: as much fun as playing the old games just like they were played 30 years back might be, many of those adherents to the old school also want something else: reliving the old days. And so they try to simulate the old times as closely as possible.

Why am I putting that much thought into this? Because I plan to use LL for some games, that’s why. it turns out that there are a few people  interested in playing pen&paper roleplaying games. I haven’t really played for years now, but let’s see if I still got it…

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¹ and lo! there actually is a retroclone of those rules as well, in English even…

Written by G. Neuner

24. February 2010 at 6:17 pm