DNGN #1

By Vasil Kaliman
Singing Flame
OSE
Level 1-?

DNGN #1: Weird-Fantasy Megadunegon is the first issue of a serialized zine that takes place in a megadungeon. Each issue will cover ten levels of the dungeon. It’s cover-to-cover of classic B/X monsters, magic items, encounters, secret doors, and old-school fun! It is a quick and easy resource of adventure material that a referee can use at the gaming table with no prep. DNGN is designed to work as a complete megadungeon adventure, or for levels be dropped directly into your pre-existing campaign setting.

This 44 page adventure features ten “2 page’ dungeon levels, each with about six rooms, and a “bonus adventure” at the end with a second dungeon. It’s HEAVY gonzo and, while the format is decent, the actual encounters feel almost procedural in the degree they are are on-theme and yet ultimately disconnected and unfulfilling, either seen separately or as a whole.

Yeah, how’s that bitch for a summary? 

The first of many issues, it claims, each with more levels of the DNGN. This feels like the art punk crowd found OSE and latched on to it. And I don’t mean that in the bad way. There are some fresh ideas from the art punks, and the OSE style is a decent baseline for formatting. But, ultimately, both are like buying a $800 drill and thinking it will turn you in to a carpenter; window dressing to the main event.

First, the OSE format. I like it and the rest of you dick heads who don’t can just fuck right off. We start with a room title, to orient you to the framing of what’s to come. Getting you in the mood, so to speak. Then some bolded keywords like “6 stone bowls” with some more details in parens after that, like: (12” radius). We then get some bullets to epands on the above descriptions, with their own bolded words and terse little descriptions. I think it lends itself well to scanning and fall naturally in to a “tell me more” Q/A style for play. The DM glances down, hits the bolded keywords, the players ask followup question and the DM can relate more, based o nthe paren information or the bullets. And, fucking importantly, it’s hard to fuck this shit up. Oh, it’s possible, I’ve seen it. But, also, it’s REALLY hard to turn this fucking shit in to a three paragrapgh wall of text shit fest. It kind of forces a terseness in the descriptions while leveraging the “less is more” style that I think our imaginations work best with. And, did I mention IT DOESN’T LEAD TO THREE PArAGRAPGH SHIT FEST DESCRIPTIONS? So, is it the best? Meh. It gets the job done. Do I respect the person who can craft a three sentence evocative and interactive room description in “sentence style?” Absofuckinglutly. But that number is quite rare and at least the OSE style formatting doesn’t lead to an unusable adventure. Theoretically, you could then focus on the interactivity and making the descriptions evocative.

So, on to this. I’m mildly surprised when I see, first thing in the adventure, the wandering monster table. 1d2 ACOLYTES dragging 1d3 ZOMBIES in chains. 1d4 DEEP ONES * sacrificing a human to an idol of a star god. 1d4 DUERGARS looting a charred and smoking corpse. Hey, that’s not bad! I can dig it! And then, looking depeper, only twenty entries for ten levels? And, I cherry picked some shit, there’s a lot of “they attack” on that table. Or, a merchant who has a key for sale for the nearest door? What’s that about? And, pay attention, the “what’s that about” applies to almost all of the entries, as we will soon discuss.

Ok, so, ten levels. Two pages per level. A sixish room map on one page and the facing page (digest format!) having the rooms keys. The map is clear and easy to read … but it only has six rooms also, so, meh. It does have light and  floor(?!) conditions though, for each room, on the map. Which is nice for running the dungeon, at least the light anyway. 

And the room entries? “Dead dwarf (in adventuring gear) sprawled on the floor. Bone fragments are scattered around the body.”Hmmm, I’m not sure … “Here lives a sadistic? CLERIC. He gathers his victims’ thumbs, strips the flesh away, and uses them to make bone curtains he sells to an eccentric clientele pictures/art” Oh, could it be that … “One statue in one room emits a foul odor. (entire figure is carved from human ear wax.)”  Ah, fuck me man. It is, essentially, procedurally generated. And I don’t mean a series of tables in the adventure. I mean that the entire thing is so disconnected from one another that it feels procedurally generated. There’s a theme, I guess, of some insects, and a heavy HEAVY gonzo sci-fi theme. So much so that I’m not even sure this could be classified as D&D. maybe a splugorth dungeon? Almost every room has some sci-fi in it. Anyway, the contents of a room don’t make sense. It’s like someone rolled on a sci-fi’ish version of the dungeon trappings table from the 1e DMG. Just some things in the room. And the individual rooms don’t really relate to each other. No zones or anything like that. Those acolytes? Who the fuck knows where they are going or why. That cleric? He’s got no story at all or relation to anything else in the dungeon. Just each room, individually. Almost like a funhouse dungeon. But, also, each room is not a set piece. It’s just a collection of random things. 

I’m super supportive of using tables, in a design, to help the DM spark ideas and get their imaginations going. But you can’t just write them down. You have to riff off of them, put them together. Make them work together to be larger than the sum of their parts, and, not detractfrom each other because they are all seemingly random. 

At one point, in a 30×80 room, there is a mass of vibes growing 4’ up the wall. With a purple worm hiding in them. For serious? There is no sense at all.

And the entries themselves, going back to look at them? Generic. Abstracted. The deep ones are calling for a trans-dimensional being! No. Absolutely not. They summon Cthulhu! Or one of the Great Old Ones! The Shadow People of Karth! Be fucking specific. “There is a journal in an unknown script.” Well, what the fuck does it say? I’ve got a fucking spell, that’s why!

So, the trappings are here. A “Megadungeon” with but six rooms per level. A format, but nothing to format. 

This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is fifteen pages and shows you the maps and dungeon levels, so its a good preview.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/410800/DNGN-1?1892600

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47 Responses to DNGN #1

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s like the author had only seen Mike’s Dungeons, decided to make a prettier version and call it a megadungeon. I’d respect it more if he called it a collection of random dungeons or something.

    • Starmenter says:

      Lol I came to make the exact same comparison. The concept isn’t bad, but it’s so simple that do we really need two?

  2. I ran this for a group a few weeks back and had this exact experience — great production values, but very little cohesiveness to the whole thing. Plus that purple worm is a killer in a zine claiming to be for first level PCs.

  3. This is a sad product, a sign of the time: a beautiful meaningless adventure. Hail to the No Art Punk Warriors on the edge of time.

  4. anonymous says:

    How is this being attacked as “Art Punk” when it’s minimalism, references to appendix N authors, and a big dungeon.

    It doesn’t sound good, but sounds like your standard bad Dragonsfoot adventure. It’s some beardy old guy’s effort to capture Castle Greyhawk and the experience of Gygax’s home game in 1975 with a nice cover. Artpunk is clearly a meaningless insult, all it seems to mean is that something has decent art but some angry old men don’t like it.

  5. 3llense'g says:

    6 rooms per level? Sounds more like a wizard’s tower than a dungeon.

  6. Nobboc says:

    It’s more of a style exercise (again) inspired by “Palace of the Vampire Queen”. For my part I appreciate the result very much. Even if I would never play this adventure as is. I find it inspiring in its way of synthesizing in few words the room descriptions, and also and mostly in the use of different fonts, weights and colors to make the whole thing hyper clear and usable (a masterpiece in this matter in my opinion, far from the Artpunk mentioned above).
    I understand the criticism, but I think there are definitely things to learn from DNGN. It’s an experiment (like a lot of OSR production, for better or for worse), it doesn’t give a perfect result at all, but it shows an interesting and valid result, which can advance the ways we doing things.
    It’s not a satisfying adventure, but it does some things perfectly well and for that alone it deserves more than a little attention, from wanabee designers/publishers, at least (but I fully understand that this is not Bryce’s primary concern)

    • Anonymous says:

      Having never seen it nor read it: I think the criticism on this type of stuff is that all this creative energy goes into the format and the substance, which is actually used at the table and the most important, suffers as a result.

      I would venture the last thing we need right now, with the defenition of OSR becoming blurrier and blurrier with each passing day, is a focus on outward appearance, style and new fonts.

      I am however glad you have received something you found inspiring, and might learn from.

    • Anonymous says:

      Inspired in what way? PotVQ manages to pack more than this thing. Have our criteria fallen so low that attractive layout and form trump the content? I know that’s your thing, but come on… DNGN seems to have taken all the wrong lessons.

      • Nobboc says:

        It’s not about “attractive”, it’s about making a layout that is a (IMHO) masterclass about ergonomic design (which further improves, IMHO, the Gavin’s format) . As a graphic designer and publisher myself, who learnt some things from it, I applaud this effort.
        But, again, I fully understand the cristicism, and I would clearly not play this adventure. But I still think I got my money’s worth as it addresses some of my personal concerns.
        If Vasil improves on the content side for his next adventure, we’ll have some good stuff.

        • Anonymous says:

          Do you understand how wretched this sounds? It will be fine if Vasil does something about the ‘content.’ As in, the actual substance of the material. This focus on layout is exactly what all this No Artpunk malarky is about. People have completely lost perspective of what is important in a good adventure.

          Layout is a little checkbox. As long as you do not ruin it to the point where your adventure becomes unreadable, you have succeeded and the box is checked. Anything else is fetishization.

          • Nobboc says:

            What makes you think you’re in a position to lecture me, you idiot?
            Do you understand that I’m not trying to say that this is a good adventure, and that I’m just saying that as a graphic designer, DNGN is very interesting and shows a possible way forward for all those for whom usability of printed text is important. That’s all. If you don’t, well, fek off.
            And no, layout is not just a little checkbox. It’s not the layout that makes a good adventure. But it is what makes, in part, a good adventure a great product that can be used by others.
            Simple.

          • Nobboc says:

            PS.. If The Saint of Bruckstadt had a layout as well done as that of DNGN (two adventures I submitted in Bryce’s list, by the way), we would not have a “Best”, but a “close to heaven” adventure. That is what does good layout.

          • Anonymous says:

            The No Artpunk movement is just Prince rambling, you know

          • PrinceofNothing says:

            You won’t believe how difficult it was to pretend to be both Peter Mullen, Hawk, J.B. and Trent Foster this year 😛

  7. PrinceofNothing says:

    There is a potentially interesting discussion on the effect of layout here. I think it would be good to move beyond the entrenched positions and examine what layout actually is and what it does.

    We can all envision an adventure as an unformatted bloc of text and extrapolate it would be unpleasant to use. Theoretically someone could still sink in several hours and make notes as to critical information for use at the table, essentially doing all of the layout work himself, but this would add hours of prep-time.

    If we look at the difference between barely acceptable layout and so-called brilliant layout, what do we find? How much time does it take to absorb the text initially, how many seconds are added to retrieving information from a bloc of text during play? How much extra session time do we ‘gain’ from improved layout. Minutes on an 8 hour session? A quarter to half an hour? Is there an effect for repeated use of the adventure?

    I suspect a fairly large effect for layout over no or terrible layout, and quick diminishing returns as additional highlighting, bullet points, fonts, bells and whistles are added beyond that.

    • Nobboc says:

      What is the difference between bad, average, good, and master craftsmanship? (layout= craftmanship). What value is added with each step? Do you get the same pleasure, comfort, efficiency, from one or the other?
      A “barely acceptable” knife will suffice to cut any piece of shit, but wouldn’t we be better off with a good old fashioned Buck knife super blade? A barely acceptable violin vs. a Stradivarius? A “barely acceptable” $20 table from Ikea or a table from the old village master carpenter that will last you a lifetime? What is the added value of good craftsmanship? What’s wrong with trying to go from “barely acceptable” to fucking good craftsmanship? And in our case, for the same price…

      • PrinceofNothing says:

        There is nothing inherently wrong with making something easy to use right? If I thought there was I’d run my contest with the goal of not using layout. But it does represent an amount of effort poured into an element of the adventure. In a perfect world everyone has infinite time and strives to give all attributes of the adventure ultra high quality. In practice, creation is a set of compromises, and if labor is put into one attribute presumably that labor comes back into the price somewhere.

        Is the relative value of going from something that is alright and might require some minor note-taking beforehand (like B2, say) to something that has been layouted up the wazzoo, cross-referenced, bullet-pointed higher then having that extra time put into polishing up the substance of the adventure? Maybe you get the language a little tighter, you rework the balance, you come up with a few more magic items.

        I say that brilliant layout cannot compenstate for fundamental problems, or trash writing, crummy balance, a boring map and so on. Its impact on the overal quality and enjoyment of the material is secondary compared to these earlier factors. A recommendation of ‘brilliant layout’ with the exclusion of earlier factors makes me suspicious.

        • Nobboc says:

          “”I say that brilliant layout cannot compenstate for fundamental problems, or trash writing, crummy balance, a boring map and so on.””

          And we totally agree on this.

        • PrinceofNothing says:

          I think most of the contention comes not from the desirability of good layout but its priority vs. other factors. I don’t think we disagree that much on anything else either, maybe on how much of a difference it really makes.

          Perhaps for purposes of discussion: As an adventure gets longer, denser and more complex, not simply layout but also other tricks of organization would become gradually more important in allowing the GM to quickly absorb the information. Or would the neccessity of studying it beforehand anyway and mastering all of its contents reduce this need?

          The strength of adventures like Melonath Falls, some of the old Gygax stuff and this year’s Perlammo Salt Mines, by all accounts brilliant but unwieldy with detail, is a point of contention between Bryce and myself.

          • Nobboc says:

            (first of all, keep in mind that I’m a graphic designer myself – and wanabee publisher…- so, the concern for layout is probably more exacerbated in me, I understand that).

            To answer your question, I think an adventure like Melonath Falls, which has great content, would benefit greatly from a better formatting and layout.
            But anyway, there are so many details in this adventure, that you will have to spend time on preparation for this adventure, if you don’t want shitty downtime during your game (even with a perfect formatting/layout).

            But with a better organization of the text, and with a more elaborate layout (it doesn’t have to be pretty, just more user friendly) you could reduce this time, say, by two easily, and make it more enjoyable and efficient. Wouldn’t that be a valid progress? Doesn’t that facilitate, in part, a better experience around the table?

            When you publish an adventure, you don’t just want guys to read it (“great ideas! so cool!”), you want it to be played, used (right?). So don’t be lazy and try to make it as user friendly as possible, that’s my point (and in that respect there is a huge margin for improvement for Melonath Fall).

            A bad layout is either due to a lack of craftmanship, which is completely understandable and forgivable (up to a certain point, depending on the level of professionalism of the publisher), or to laziness (in therefore, fuck the publisher!)

          • Nobboc says:

            In an ideal world, for every published adventure, there should be:
            – a good designer with cool ideas who can put them in order and translate them into words to make a good adventure
            – a savage, merciless, ruthless ballbuster (like Bryce) who will point out all the weaknesses and possibilities for improvement, over and over, until the guy above cries tears of blood!
            – A graphic designer who works his arse off to translate this visually in an efficient way (and if it’s nice and pleasant, the better)
            – A publisher who frantically uses his whip to get the three guys above to do their best.

          • PrinceofNothing says:

            This almost calls for an experiment, with groups using the same adventure with primitive formatting vs state of the art or whatever. If the gain is really 50% it does become a much larger concern in those cases.

            With a lot of the shortform material (like, say, the Beholder Magazine adventures I am currently reviewing), there is relatively little complexity and the descriptions are of ideal length so the text easily gets away with simple keying and legible paragraphs.

            I am thinking back to something like Trouble at Embertrees which is clearly good but almost impenetrable. There are clear cases where information presentation can kill a work.

            I think I, and with me many others, are weary of the influx of qualitatively primitive or inadequate material, which relies on appearance, stunt writing, and indeed layout to attract potential customers, and has led to a growing bowdlerisation of the material that has come out. That this change is actively pushed by a miserable cabal of sullen ideological grifters further exacerbates the issue.

            I hesitate to speak for others but if you have any concrete ideas on how to improve the layout of Melonath Falls I think Trent would greatly appreciate it, in particular since he is working on the much longer Perlammo Salt Mines, which is a similarly rich (but dense) work. I would encourage you to contact him, as you do seem to have more experience then he (or for that matter I).

          • Nobboc says:

            Ok. I just try by picking randomly one room (#5, P.3). Link below. The original is on the left, mine on the right.

            Please keep in mind that English is not my native language, and that’s only a 15 minutes effort (10 for the text, 5 for the SUPER BASIC layout). I used the OSE B/X stats by personal convenience.

            Obviously, it could be really better. But still, I think it’s a progress. The text is shorter (though, I added some details: monsters doing something, start of a scenery) and IMO better organized. It’s quite easier to scan it on the fly (I don’t think you need any prep to run this room). 15 minutes on someone else’s text and ideas.

            Is it a legit progress for you?

            https://ibb.co/5Y8Dbv3

          • Nobboc says:

            And if you’re allergic to Gavin’s bulleted style and telegraphic language, I’ve added a very classic version (and still a very basic layout) on the right (link below). I still think it’s a good improvement from a usability point of view

            https://ibb.co/HC979CZ

          • John says:

            Nobboc – those layouts are excellent, and would save prep time and time at the table, so I do think add real value. There are a few details of the bullywugs not carried over (double damage and 5-in-6 surprise on hop, last in initiative if not hop) which would make the monster stat block a bit more complicated, but I suspect are still easier to parse in your examples.

            Out of curiosity, do you think the whole adventure would be amenable to such layout changes, or would it be hard to convey some of the information needed for running the larger tactical situation in that possibly room-centric structure?

          • Trent says:

            Author of Melonath Falls here. Thanks for the demonstration. The first reformatting is (IMO) fucking terrible. The second doesn’t actually seem that far off from what the draft document looks like now (following some further editing and consultation with a couple other folks after the first draft was submitted to NAP last year): the room titles, bolding, indents, paragraph breaks, removal of some loose/unnecessary verbiage, etc. One thing I didn’t do was put the monster stats in gray boxes (or convert them to OSE). I suppose it’s eye-catching but I don’t actually think it’s practical – it makes it harder to print out and harder to make notes. I appreciate making things easier for the DM to use at the table within reason, but have no interest in trying to create something that the DM can run without reading it in advance and taking notes, even though that’s what Bryce wants.

            Yes, taking notes: underlining and highlighting stuff you think is key, making marginal notes on interrelations between rooms, thinking about both the big picture and the micro-level of the individual rooms, adding and changing stuff to make it fit your game and players. Putting in the time and effort to do all of that ahead of and between sessions (and MF was definitely designed to fill more than one session) is how the DM learns and becomes comfortable with the material and is able to make it come alive at the table. You can’t (or at least shouldn’t) outsource that effort – the whole point is doing it yourself. When I run a module I usually read it 3-4 times before play begins and make tons of notes and modifications, and wouldn’t want it any other way, especially for something that’s likely to be in play for a month or more.

            Prep-work – studying the module and figuring out how you’re going to run it and what is likely to happen and planning contingencies and so on – is fun. At least it is for me. So that’s the way I write – I like complexity and depth and interrelations and for everything to be in flux and change depending on the circumstances, and for the DM to have to be familiar and comfortable enough with the material to adapt to all of that in realtime at the table. And at least in my experience the way the DM gets that familiarity is by reading and study and note-taking and really thinking about the material and the game. Not just pulling some shit off there shelf 10 minutes before the players show up.

            IMO, YMMV, etc.

          • Nobboc says:

            Hi Trent.
            I was just answering Prince’s question about whether a different formatting of your text, which he used as an example, could save time in preparation. From this point of view (only), I think I have demonstrated that it does.
            The intention was not at all, please believe me, to denigrate your work. No offense! (at all). Cheers!

          • Shuffling Wombat says:

            Other factors worthy of consideration:

            (i) Is the writer comfortable with complete sentences and full paragraphs? If so, brutal editing might remove inspirational detail, and damage the natural flow of ideas.

            (ii) Nobboc’s list is reasonable for a small publishing company, less so for a gifted amateur.

            (iii) Does artwork do an important job of breaking up text, making the whole easier on the eye?

            And as an example, do people like the layout of Peril in Olden Wood?

          • Trent says:

            @Nobboc: no worries, we’re good. I really do appreciate seeing a concrete example of what someone who doesn’t like the layout/editing of my stuff would prefer it to look like.

            One more note: one thing you added was a few words saying what the monsters are doing when the PCs enter the room, turning each room into a little scene. I know most people do this and it’s been a standard part of dungeon adventure writing back to G1, but I (mostly, there are probably a few exceptions) eschew it on purpose because the way I see it a dungeon isn’t a series of scenes, it’s a place in the fictional world. These monsters live/sleep here but they aren’t in quantum stasis repeating the same action on an infinite loop until the PCs show up. Rather they’re going about their lives, and there are so many variables about when and how the PCs might approach (time of day, how many there are, how much commotion they’ve been making, whether this is their first invasion or a repeat engagement, etc) that any assumption is likely to be wrong much of the time and the DM will still be required to ignore that staging cue and replace it with something else.

            I suppose I could have included detailed notes or tables in each room outlining all of the things the inhabitants could be doing under different circumstances, but that would massively blow up the size of the document and probably make it harder, rather than easier, to use as the DM would have to wade through a bunch of conditionals to find the one that applies and ignore all the others. Better IMO to just describe who the inhabitants are and a little something about their usual routines and let the DM figure out what they’re up to at any given moment in play, when it actually matters.

            I know the little scenes in G1 (et al) can help novice or journeyman DMs by reminding them that not everything is just sitting around waiting to fight, and that especially in a tournament or one-off type environment (when a lot of those variables cancel out) it makes sense, but in open-ended campaign play it really doesn’t IMO. Even with G1, I suspect almost everyone who’s run it has run into the same issue – the party invades during the giant party, explores and experiences the little set-piece scenes and gets into some trouble, then retreats and comes back a few days later. And when that happens the DM has to essentially rewrite most of the module, figuring out where all the monsters are now, what they’re doing now, what extra precautions they’ve taken, etc and the module gives almost zero advice for that. An experienced DM (one who has absorbed the lessons of DMG pp. 104-105) can handle that, but I know from experience of both being and playing with novice or mediocre DMs that a lot of them can’t, so you end up with dissonant and non-credible scenes where the monsters are still acting out their scripted scene even though it no longer makes sense given the changed circumstances.

            Yes, my way of making the DM come up with monster activities on the spot rather than giving scripted bits makes some more work for the DM at least on the first run, but I’m ok with that since, as per my earlier post, I want/expect the would-be DM to put in the effort of studying and prepping and thinking about all this stuff so that they’re comfortable enough with the material that these sorts of additions will come naturally.

            It’s a different approach that what Bryce prefers and advocates for, which is why he was so angrily dismissive of MF, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just different. And it’s got a classic pedigree – if we go back before G1 and look at stuff like Temple of the Frog and Sunstone Caverns (from CSotIO) you can see something similar to what I’m doing – an overview of the situation that the DM is left to drill down into and particularize in play, rather than a series of scripted mini-scenes.

            There is (or at least should be IMO) room for both – stuff you can pull off the shelf and run as-is at a tournament or one-off (or as part of an episodic campaign), but also stuff that is more open-ended and campaign-oriented, that recognizes because there are so many variables in how it will be used in play that it’s better to give an overview and encourage the DM to think about and customize it so that it can always feel like a real, living, reactive environment no matter how it’s approached. Know what I’m sayin’?

          • PrinceofNothing says:

            Classic style seems infinetely preferable. The text is most improved by trimming the redundant verbiage, which you have illustrated ruthlessly, but which is not a factor of layout. There is something about this machine tongue that interferes with the ability to form a clear picture I find. It is jarring and soulless.

            Reading the text and absorbing it, then quickly referencing the monster statts, which are described below, is how I would expect this section to be used. Highlighting it with a box and other flurries shaves off perhaps .4 secs of searching if we are being generous and it would lessen with familiarity.

            I think you might be onto something with putting the monsters behavior over the monster stattblock, so it may be quickly referenced during play, instead of in the main body, where one would have to dig it out. The shaft information is appropriately last.

            Information might be presented in order of immediacy, quick sensory impressions and occupants, with the details laid out below only revealed after a more thorough investigation.

          • Nobboc says:

            Trent,

            “but they aren’t in quantum stasis repeating the same action on an infinite loop until the PCs show up. ”

            You write “there are 16 Bullywug Females”. Might as well give them something to do. These are just simple action examples, general things (a few words, one line of text max) that give a framework, a beginning of a scene, a flavor and a tone, on which the DM can easily improvise, imagine what he wants. I think it’s easy to adapt it on the fly if the situation requires it. I think it’s better to have that than nothing, more of an advantage than a handicap.

            “16 females live in this room “is no less risky in terms of “infinite loop” than “’16 females live here (cooking, skinning a gnome or sleeping on reed mats)”. Seriously.

          • 3llense'g says:

            Trent, I have the opposite problem. I just realized I have to re-think the whole upper portion of my dungeon, because when the PCs arrive to save kidnapped children from a death cult, “they’re cooking dinner” is not exactly an exciting adventure, no matter how realistic.

    • The Heretic says:

      “unformatted bloc of text”—that sounds like the Desert of Desolation module by TSR (which combined I3-5 into an omnibus with tons of other stuff). You should review it some time if you are feeling masochistic.

      • PrinceofNothing says:

        Every day is leg day. I’ll see what I can do. I tried fiddling with the contrast on my blog per your request but could find no way to make the black blacker or the white whiter.

    • Reason says:

      The difference aside from time saved, is quality of play.

      Anytime I have to stop paying attention to players and spend a minute or three puzzling over wtf matters in this room or how it works= the play suffers.

      Anytime I have to shuffle back and forth between the room and my pages of running notes on the room- because it is too shitely written to even fit my wtf notes in the margin= play suffers.

      Anytime we play a bit off my room beginning and then I have to go either “oops actually its dark in here or xy”… = the play suffers.

      They also frustrate me as DM and make me feel like I;m doing a shit job and add stress/reduce our enjoyment (or my enjoyment, even if players don’t notice my covers)= the play suffers.

      Good layout makes me feel confident I can ENJOY running the adventure ad deliver it well to players. It’s not just minutes lost. *although of course, struct time records must be kept. In accordance with the prophecy*

      • Anonymous says:

        You do know that you should read the adventure at least once before running it? If you are reading it for the first time during the game, then you are doing something wrong…

        • Nobboc says:

          This is not necessarily the case.
          1) I can name a bunch of adventures that you don’t need to read before playing. Or almost. You read the introduction, the appendices if there are any (something like 15 minutes after your daywork) and you’re good to go (most of Norman’s or Kerr’s adventures for example)

          2) There is a difference between reading an adventure once before playing it, and having to take notes, highlight, reorganize, memorize etc.

          3) I can think of several great adventures that wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes of preparation or reading to get ready to play if they had a better layout (which would make them even grater adventures)
          And I’m not talking about saving a few seconds here or there, but about enabling a better experience.

          Short, evocative text is better and easier to use than long, bland text. The same goes for a good layout vs. a bad layout.
          No one is saying that a good layout will make a bad adventure a good adventure. Just that a good layout will make a good adventure a better adventure (we’re talking about published adventures, for an audience that needs to >>USE<< it, not just read it).

          Actually, I don't understand this disdain or suspicion of attempts or desires to improve the form of adventures. There's something like "good layouts are for sissies, Hooah!" that's just plain silly. A layout is just a tool like any other. You have bad ones, good ones and better ones. I prefer to walk with good shoes.

  8. Yolande d'Bar says:

    Hey, Prince, I’d be curious to see you list some examples of adventures with exemplary layout, the best of the best. I have a great idea of what you like, content-wise, from your reviews, but, unlike with Bryce, I don’t really have a good sense of what you consider superior layout.

  9. Yolande d'Bar says:

    Which is to say, layout-wise, I know what you hate, but what do you love?

    • PrinceofNothing says:

      Excellent question.

      Stonehell. For projects of a certain size, one should accept no substitute. In addition, the sort of elegant, minimalist layout you will find in the likes of GL’s Echoes of Fomalhaut or Xyntillian also appeals. Although I find his overuse of bullet points tedious and MotBM was an overcomplicated mess, Zak S’s RaPL was also a good example of layout. Last and certainly not without merit, Skalbak Sneer, this year’s NAP winner, is also a brilliant example (coming soon).

      As the sentiment was mentioned before, I consider layout to be a checkbox, a quality gate that, if checked, merits no further examination. Unless the layout is jarring, I do not grant it a great deal of attention. Something like the Beholder adventures that I am reviewing now don’t require much to make them legible and would not gain much from elaboration. As a precision tool to make complex matter more intelligible there is potential, but most of the OSR stuff now cannot boast that complexity.

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