If you’re interested in early British tabletop role-playing games (particularly from the 1970s and ’80s), I recommend keeping an eye on the #BOSR (British Old-School Role-Playing) hashtag on Twitter. There was a great thread last month trying to sort out which games fit into the BOSR (a fun but likely impossible exercise).[Read more…]
You really need to read Gus L.’s blog. Across a series of informative and enjoyable essays, the man has been gradually detailing the “Classic Dungeon Crawl” style of play (and how to apply it to more recent RPGs).
I find his argument about the utility of location-based play particularly compelling:
“[T]he dungeon is first a simplification and a gamification – a game board that strips away many of the complex problems of an open fictional world… As a game ‘board’ rather than a ‘structure’ or ‘narrative’ the dungeon first creates spatial puzzles – its mechanics and principles often relate to how best to move through it as a location. With a spatial orientation in its design (the map being far more important in a Dungeon Crawl then it is a scene based game) the spatial puzzle leads to exploration, a game where it’s valuable for players to determine and understand the physical layout of the dungeon: entrances, exists, regions, locations of interest and the interrelations between them.”
Early D&D is a maze game. Ok, that’s a tad reductive, not least because early D&D is a number of different game systems bolted together, including a tactical skirmish game, a resource management game, a hex exploration game, etc. D&D is also, of course, a framework to improvise outside of the rules and to generate collaborative stories. Most importantly: D&D is whatever works for you.
Still, if we’re being honest, it’s a maze game. Players go down into a maze (designed by the DM), avoid (or disarm) traps, and avoid (or fight, or parlay with) monsters in order to recover treasure. That’s the game. D&D’s preponderance, in earlier editions, for cartographical tricks and traps such as sloping corridors, teleporters, and spinning rooms doesn’t make sense unless D&D is a maze game.[Read more…]
Zhu has written an absolutely cracking post. I thoroughly recommend you head over to his blog and give it a read, as his erudite and well-researched musings are far more intellectually rigorous than my own half-baked ramblings on the subject.
Seriously, there’s so much to unpack. The part where he mentions “dungeon-as-code” was a lightbulb moment for me. I’ve already said I’m fascinated by the space where paper, digital, and physical intersect, and the idea of “dungeon-as-code” seems like it belongs in a similar kind of transitional space; a halfway house between boardgame, wargame, and our contemporary notions of tabletop RPGs.[Read more…]