Friday, January 23, 2009

Dwimmermount: The Product

So, I've been toying with the idea of releasing an old school product derived from my Dwimmermount campaign. In practice, it'd a supplement to Swords & Wizardry, but I probably won't use the S&W Compatibility-Statement License, because I'm not super-keen about the ascending AC system and prefer the standard D&D system. Mind you, all the pre-WotC editions of D&D are close enough mechanically that, with a few little wrinkles here and there, products written for one are all eminently usable with the others, so the system under which it's ostensibly written doesn't really matter.

There are a couple of reasons why I'm thinking of doing this. Firstly, I've created some nifty house rules, monsters, spells, magic items, and other such things that I'd like to share in a format more "solid" than this blog. Second, I have some ideas I'd like to try out regarding the "ideal" way to present supplementary material for RPGs. While I take a lot of inspiration from the "grab bag" approach used in the original OD&D supplements, it's not quite the approach I want to take. Likewise, I regard most modern supplements to be unhappily systematic in their approach, favoring clarity and comprehensiveness over suggestiveness and brevity.

(Much as I love the nostalgia value of seeing new books done in the style of OD&D's little brown books, that's not a style I have any interest in adopting as my own either.)

As I conceive it now, this theoretical product would consist of two parts. The first would have all the "goodies" that are the staple of such supplements, with an emphasis not so much on new rules as one new ideas/examples that work with the existing rules. I'm actually coming round to the notion that, except in the case of entirely new systems without any coverage in the core rules -- such as mass combat in the case of S&W, for example -- there's no good reason to include new rules that could just as easily be created through play on an ad hoc basis.

The second part would be campaign-oriented stuff. I'd give some slices of what my Dwimmermount campaign is like without going overboard. So, there might be a map of the starting campaign area, used as a literal example of how to create one's own. Likewise, I'm thinking I might well include several levels of Dwimmermount's dungeons itself, presented in abbreviated form thanks to the wonderful one-page templates that Sham, Chgowiz, and Mike originated and developed. The more I interact with people, the more I realize that, even among old schoolers of long years, the megadungeon and sandbox concepts aren't well understood. What's needed is more than mere philosophizing about the finer points of these foundational concepts and more practical examples and advice on how to use them to good effect.

Like a lot of my theoretical projects, this one may never come to pass, but I hope it does. The campaign is going very well, despite the obstacles and I feel like I've gleaned a lot of useful insights through refereeing it. Plus, in all honesty: there's never been a better time to produce and publish your own old school books and I want to get in on that action.

23 comments:

  1. I certainly would love to see such a product. :)

    It seems a pity, though, that you wouldn't officially note its compatibility with S&W simply because you don't want to include ascending ACs in brackets in addition to the standard descending ACs. The more S&W stuff available, the more people will notice it, and hopefully try it. (Okay, okay, I'll stop bothering your about the whole AC thing now.;) )

    Dwimmermount and AC stuff aside, I've been enjoying your blog. Good stuff!

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  2. I'll second that...

    The family is having a hoot in the Ruined Monastery, and after reading everything you've churned out regarding Dwimmermount I can honestly say it's something I'd be eminently interested in reading / playing.

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  3. I should mention, James, that I ran your "Ruined Monastery" adventure last summer (with the B/X D&D rules), and had a great time with it!

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  4. Heh - I was going to say what Akrasia did - S&W doesn't force anyone to use ascending AC - all that the license requires is a second AC number in brackets next to the regular AC number. Which makes the "product" much more attractive to people who might use it with C&C or with BFRPG.

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  5. I would LOVE a Dwimmermount supplement! I hope you are able to make it happen. :)

    As far as the AC thing, I agree with Akrasia and Mike, it's such a small detail. Why not just throw it in there? Isn't the point of old school gaming to leave it open so people can infuse their particular tastes?

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  6. I'd LOVE to see Dwimmermount as a product. Please, please, please do it. :)

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  7. Link to the "wonderful one-page templates"?

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  8. >should mention, James, that I ran your "Ruined Monastery<

    Yo James, where can I find it? I may be needing an alternate adventure for my planned game next week.

    Even if I never ran anything set in Dwimmermount, I would like to have hard copy in hand just for entertaining reading. So go for it!

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  9. In true New School form.. I'd download it just to read it.
    ;)

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  10. I would most probably buy this, as well. Yum!

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  11. @Delta: Chgowitz has links to the templates here:

    http://oldguyrpg.blogspot.com/2009/01/one-page-dungeon-keys-and-gimp.html

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  12. Or more to taraget here:

    http://oldguyrpg.blogspot.com/2008/12/one-page-dungeon-level-templates.html

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  13. It seems a pity, though, that you wouldn't officially note its compatibility with S&W simply because you don't want to include ascending ACs

    The thing is I use AC much more "straight" than most people. I don't allow Dex bonuses to AC. I subtract magical armor bonuses from an opponent's attack roll. I also use a weapon vs. AC table. All these factors would make Ascending AC somewhat incoherent (or at least infelicitous) in the context of the Dwimmermount supplement. And I just find it esthetically displeasing.

    I realize these will seem like unnecessary quibbles to a lot of people and that's fine. One of the great things about old school gaming is how tolerant it is of eccentricities!

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  14. Which makes the "product" much more attractive to people who might use it with C&C or with BFRPG.

    Oh yes, I fully understand and appreciate that point, but I have a reputation of being a narrow-minded dogmatist to uphold! :)

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  15. Why not just throw it in there? Isn't the point of old school gaming to leave it open so people can infuse their particular tastes?

    Sure, but that same openness applies to me as well and I just don't like Ascending AC.

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  16. Sounds like a great idea, leading by example. (I say, looking sadly at piles of unfinished projects.)

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  17. "examples that work with the existing rules", "example of how to create one's own (campaign)"

    That's the spirit. Naturally you emphasize 'old school' and OD&D but keep in mind there are people like me who consider 1ed AD&D core but have respect for the traditions or the First Way. The old school caliber of dungeon exploration, as with anything so well argued and persuasive, might be appropriated by keen-eyed AD&D DMs for underground adventures.

    Perhaps your audience is wider than you think.

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  18. I'd certainly check it out.

    I still don't understand why you have issues with ascending AC, though. I mean, I s'pose it's traditional, but so are lots of other things that work just fine a different way.

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  19. Perhaps your audience is wider than you think.

    I certainly hope so! I have, however, learned the virtue of low expectations.

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  20. "The thing is I use AC much more "straight" than most people. I don't allow Dex bonuses to AC. I subtract magical armor bonuses from an opponent's attack roll. I also use a weapon vs. AC table. All these factors would make Ascending AC somewhat incoherent "

    'Incoherent'? Why? I don't see any 'incoherence' in doing all of those things with an ascending AC.

    But even if the ascending AC is incoherent for some reason for your purposes, I still don't understand your opposition to including it, since the descending AC is included as well (and is listed first). It seems a pity to not help promote S&W, and help out players who want to use your product with the ascending AC system, especially if doing so does not in any way adversely affect those who prefer the descending system.

    OK, I'll stop now ... :)

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  21. OK, I'll stop now ... :)

    Feel free to continue; you might just convince me -- though I doubt it.

    This is a taste issue, though, like styles of artwork or naming conventions or dozens of other things. I just don't like ascending AC esthetically and find it an unnecessary deviation from the standard D&D AC system, so I'm not going to use it.

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  22. Okay, since I'm not actively irritating you with this, here's another try... :P

    Obviously, for your own games, there is no reason to use the ascending ACs.

    The question is: what would be the benefits and costs of including the ascending ACs -- along with the descending ones, of course -- in a product meant for others to use?

    Consider the benefits of including the ascending ACs:

    1. Increases the visibility of S&W by putting another 'official' S&W product out on the market.

    2. Increases the market for your product by tying it to S&W.

    3. Helps players who use the ascending AC system use your product in their games.

    What are the costs?

    The only one is that you personally find it aesthetically unappealing to include the ascending ACs in square brackets after the descending ACs.

    Okay, fair enough. But, of course, when running your own games, you don't need to use the version that is being made available to the public. You own the original document! If simply ignoring the number is too irritating, delete them from the document.

    In short, there seems to be no real benefit to not including the ascending AC. It seems like a strange reason to deliberately forgo tying your product to S&W.

    Personally, I vastly prefer the ascending AC system. I like not having to consult 'to hit' charts or use THAC0. I have no idea why D&D didn't always use this system, given how intuitive it is compared to the descending system (it certainly is much more intuitive for new players, IME). However, my aesthetic and 'playability' reason for preferring the ascending AC system doesn't seem like a reason to not include the descending AC stats for the things that I write (and have written) for S&W.

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  23. Would definitely look through such a product; publish it and people will read it.

    The AC thing: Aesthetically, I like descending AC, but practically, I like ascending AC. one of the things i like about swords and wizardry is that it gives both!

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