No Art Punks

By Peter Mullen
No Artpunk #3
Levels 4-6

The wanted Poster hung outside the Village trading post and fish market door by the town deputy confirms the identity of that bearded Vagabond you saw rowing into the Sea Cave just south of town four days ago. More importantly, it states that Darvel the Dashing is worth 5000 GP* Dead or Alive!

This fourteen page dungeon has about 43 rooms in a vaguely sea save environment. A straightup dungeon with no pretense, it’s encounters go the extra mile to add just that little bit more that keeps the entries short but with extra flavour. And a delightfully painful map to use with no real evocative descriptions. A dungeons dungeon.

Man, the map on this one. It’s wonderful and painful at the same time. Some kind of hand-drawn isometric that looks machine drawn. Like some mobius puzzle full of rooms, halls, and rivers. And then with light pencil marks on it to indicate the room numbers, barely visible. And then it looks like someone took a photo of it on their phone, after folding it up like a real map, so creases added to it. (Which are actually the pages … it’s done over eight 11×8 pages and “taped” together, it looks like.) It’s fucking great. Lots of branches, lots of variety in elevation and terrain. And I have no fucking idea at all how you would EVER be able to look at it during play. Formatting it single column, which, while I’m not a fan of, the shorter entries for the room keys keeps thing generally manageable … although double column still would have worked better. (You can read some scholarly articles about the eye traveling longer distances over single column and its impacts.) And the rooms descriptions, in terms of evocative writing, are generally not present. “This larger cave has a stalagmite and stalactite curtain wall to the south end.” It basically has very little to no descriptions of the actual room environments. You’re on your own buddy.

But the rest is pretty chill.

Ain’t a lot of fucking around with this one. It’s just a dungeon and it stays focused on being a dungeon, to its credit. We get a page of complications, in the form of others also entering the dungeon for various reasons … including some suspect potential hirelings. And then there’s a page or so of wanderers to keep you on your toes, The stirge sit on stalactites, the fire beetles eat algae form the walls. It’s not much, but its doing ok in my book. Maybe a bit heavy on the “lying in wait” for some entries, but it’s got that few extra words to help get the DM juices going during the wanderer encounter. Which is what the extra on the wanderers table should be doing. It doesn’t need a paragraph, just like in this adventure you just need a couple of extra words. The mermen-like dudes are cautiously exploring the dry caves in their bubble helmets. Great!

The actual encounters here are pretty focused. You get maybe two or three sentences per encounter, for the most part, with a few going on for a paragraph or so. 

What sets this apart though it the extra bit that is added on to each encounter. There’s this larger for the bugbears. “The sub-chief and two helpers are selecting a barrel of ale to roll out to their crew.” Or, on a ledge of stone gargoyles, if you drop them in to the water they r-hydrate to be the mermen-like dudes they always were. A room has a giant stone face in it, a shadow hiding the nostril to stalk the party until they are weakened. And, if you crawl through a nose, being the correct size to do so, you get somewhere else. It’s just that little bit more to an otherwise mostly minimally keyed (or minimally adjacent) adventure. It is, essentially, the same thing Gygax did in his better moments in B2 and G1. The orcs playing knucklebones or the Bree-yark shit. Just a little bit more to help get the DM going for the encounter. It adds a whole lotta life, beyond a true minimally keying, without having to go on and on and on. It sets up a SITUATION, which is so much better than an encounter, without it being a set piece. And that’s what you want. A situation that you can grok quickly during play. You can glance at the text to run the room immediately AND it inspires you to run something fun. When it’s done well, anyway.

The longer encounters tend to have someone or something you can talk to, hence their longer nature. An ogre running a rat kabob thing, grilling them. And he does a good job! Or a leprechaun running a con, the way leprechauns should. And, a talking spider, willing to let go with some of his information, the sly old devil. You didn’t REALLY need that halfling that’s with you, did you?

This is a straight up dungeon. It would not be out of place as a level in The Darkness Beneath, as one of the better levels. And I don’t know how I can give higher praise than comparing someone to David Bowman. Yeah, yeah, the room descriptions are lacking, in their evocative nature, making this essentially a B2-like thing. And I might like a little bit more both with monster descriptions (again evocative) and treasure detail. But you can’t fault this thing for giving you that old school dungeon flavour … something that it, strangely, missing from the VAST majority of old school adventures. Which is as true today as it has been since the late 1e days. 

I can’t best this, especially with the map, but the fucking thing is close.

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26 Responses to No Art Punks

  1. Gnarley Bones says:

    Bryce may not know his audience if he thinks comparing a work to B2 is a back-handed compliment. 😉

  2. The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

    Some of the typical stick up their ass fuckheads seem to have an odd unreasonable problem with Prince’s No Artpunk projects. Some even seem quite put out by the whole thing. I don’t get why but No Artpunk might just be the best overall value these days in old school type D&D adventuring.

    Screw that. They ARE the best value.

    Hopefully, there will be many more of these in the future.

    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely! OSR gold mine!

    • Bored of Kas says:

      Perhaps people don’t like it because Prince, and many others associated with the project run about calling people names and generally being assholes? Or the encouragement of a guy like Macris to join in? Maybe the way its presented with contempt for everyone who write and plays games in a different way turns people off? Perhaps people don’t support donating to a vaccines cause autism conspiracy organization?

      No, no, I’m sure it’s none of those things – I’m sure people who don’t love it are just wrong and bad.

      • Anonymous says:

        “No, no, I’m sure it’s none of those things – I’m sure people who don’t love it are just wrong and bad.”

        You forgot weird and sick.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is a good example of the integrity of the average Anti-napster.

        “and many others associated with the project run about calling people names and generally being assholes?”

        What others? By whom? Also, why should anyone care what a band of lying weirdos thinks about anyone? Your frame of reference is skewed.

        “Or the encouragement of a guy like Macris to join in?”

        Again, your frame of reference is skewed, and your opinion is meaningless because you don’t produce anything worthwhile.

        “Maybe the way its presented with contempt for everyone who write and plays games in a different way turns people off?”

        Then write and play in a different way instead of crying in the comments sections and trying to blacklist an adventure design competition that produces good work, useful feedback and is non-profit.

        “Perhaps people don’t support donating to a vaccines cause autism conspiracy organization?”

        A great example of disingenuous Antinap behavior. That charity officially distanced themselves from that position a decade ago. But the antinapster will repeat the lie to cast doubt on it yet still cry when they are not believed. The current charity is the National Fybromyalgia Association of course, but this is not mentioned. Perhaps the antinapster’s hatred of women will cause him to denounce that as well?

        “No, no, I’m sure it’s none of those things – I’m sure people who don’t love it are just wrong and bad. ”

        You are free to hate it, but shut the fuck up about and do your own thing. Don’t come here and complain, don’t try to blacklist and stop lying. Also you forgot weird and sick.

      • Imbangala says:

        You have no sons to carry on your legacy. Your seed is spread across the desert. Happiness you shall never know

    • Prince says:

      There will be at least one more after this one. We might have to come up with a more permanent solution if interest is maintained.

  3. Hawk says:

    Nice work Peter, love to see an illustrated version of this!

  4. Gnarley Bones says:

    “Maybe the way its presented with contempt for everyone who write and plays games in a different way turns people off?”

    Only someone *deeply* invested in ArtPunk, so deeply that it would interfere with their day-to-day living, could possibly be upset by the presentation of these ready-to-play scenarios.

    Even then, I strongly suspect that a solid 75% of the outrage is of the manufactured variety.

  5. Phlar says:

    In the old days (late 20th century) irony was more of a way of life than it has been recently. I read Princes blog and without any further knowledge my guess is that he, like myself, is ‘slightly older’.

    To the younger kids he may seem to be insulting basically everybody, but to me this is just a literary choice that I remember fondly from some time ago (Propria Cures) and one should not take it too seriously. A personal highlight was the discussion on Saint of Bruckstadt, in which he discusses American and European LOTFP module writing.

    • Prince says:

      I myself am partial to my review of Maze of the Minotaur.

      You are not wrong 🙂

    • Bailey says:

      I always wondered why I found Prince unreadable. I don’t otherwise go around trashing the guy, and I otherwise like the output of No Artpunk. This might be it.

    • Maynard says:

      Some people are turned off by the style of writing, that’s a perfectly reasonable personal preference.

      I think the problem occurs when someone expresses that preference and are dogpiled by zealots insisting that they are wrong, that there preference has been manufactured to make prince look bad or just to cause outrage, that they’ve never made anything of value (how could you know this???).

      Now it’s not a preference, now their suspicions about the product have been confirmed. Now it’s a whole problem that explodes all over forums.

      It’s ok for people to enjoy other playstyles, to loudly state that preference, to be unhappy when someone releases a product that explicitly denounces their playstyle (even if it’s in jest). They might be wrong, they might not be in on the joke, but there’s no need to crucify them.

      People call discussion around NAP cringy and I don’t really disgree. There’s profound insecurity inherent in these replies (on both sides). If the product is good (and I think it is!) then there’s no need to defend it this vehemently it should speak for itself. The people having a bad reaction to it won’t be swayed by writing paragraphs at them.

      • Prince says:

        These preferences that are expressed are (virtually) never about the actual product. Discussion about substance and the actual content is valid and worthwhile. Whining is a waste of time, and trying to sway people that have bad reactions based on peripheral issues is also a waste of time.

        If some long-time commenter has something of substance to say or discuss, this should be valued. But please do not give credence to insincere crying over issues that have nothing to do with the substance of the contest.

        • Maynard says:

          Look all I’m saying is that if the mission is to spread knowledge about your favorite playstle, to get more people in contact with awesome adventures, then the status quo is counter to the mission.

          Lots of great content here but it’s worthwhile to consider accessibility. What are the barriers to someone reading through one of the adventures? Seeing these arguments on reddit or something is going to stop someone from even considering a download and the product never gets evaluated on its merits. That might be a necessary sacrifice for you, but it’s worth considering.

          • Prince says:

            I think you are naive about the current status quo. No amount of indulging commentary that is qualitatively empty and is concerned mainly with the airing of some deep personal sleight (if we are charitable) is going to alter anyone’s mind who would not otherwise be inclined to check it out. It is, after all, free, I earn nothing from it.

            The general pattern of the Antinapster seems to be that someone sees my name on an OSR-discord (or NuSR discord) distributed Blacklist, maybe reads one article where I use a gamer-word if that, makes up their mind about who I am and what I am about, and decides to be against the contest, then comes here to do some tortuous interference/crying. Cleaning up the commentary here will not sway someone who still believes these people after years of duplicity. I should also point out that thus far the drama surrounding NAP has only increased its popularity.

            NAP I is a silver bestseller on drivethru, putting it at somewhere between 100-500 downloads. Nap II is currently at 1700 on Itch, the equivalent of Platinum on drivethru (but I don’t want to eat a cut of the charity proceeds). If I had to speculate the ferocity serves to attract, rather then deflect interest.

            Fwiw, putting out an occasional FAQ seems to at least force the usual suspects to periodically change the narrative a litte, but no action or concession will meaningfully alter their attitude. Look at Gabor, Macris etc. etc. A star chamber trial is held and you are not allowed any defence. Concessions will simply be treated as a sign of weakness. If someone is turned off of checking something out which is free by a mean comment from an anonymous man to another anonymous man then I’d say they are welcome not to play them.


          • Malrex says:

            Actually Prince…NAP I is not 100-500 downloads…but actually has 3,330 downloads (I was curious and checked).
            This has been a public service announcement and you can all go back to arguing amongst yourselves.
            Thank you.

          • Prince says:

            Nice! The ranking system does not measure downloads? Color me impressed!

          • Trent says:

            DriveThru rankings only count paid purchases. Those ~500 were people who paid something for it when it was PWYW. Now that it’s free its ranking will never increase now matter how many people download it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the review Bryce! I’m glad it wasn’t an odious task and hopefully it was fun to read! I was experimenting with isometric maps and thought this would be a great opportunity to experiment a bit. The original idea was to redraw and ink the map with some illustrations like the DCC RPG maps but I just couldn’t squeeze out the time with my schedule. At any rate, Thanks again for taking the time and I greatly appreciate the feedback!

  7. squeen says:

    Way to go Peter! I have come to appreciate that very, very few folks grok classic D&D the way that you do. It comes across in your art, and Bryce noticed it in this dungeon too.

    You are truly an OSR gem, and we are all quite lucky that Matt Finch had to good sense to get your work public when he included it OSRIC and then Swords & Wizardry. We’ve all been much richer for it.


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