Monday, October 26, 2020

Prison of the Hated Pretender 2020 Release

A revised, updated, edited, illustrated and annotated version of my 2012 Prison of the Hated Pretender is now available for purchase and download at DriveThruRPG.  The adventure is introductory, and now includes copious notes on running classic style adventures as well as conversion details for 5th Edition D&D. 

Published through the amazing Hydra Cooperative, and available here:

DriveThru Link

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Risk Economy - Part 0 - Orienteering and Exploration


This is Adventuring!
1st Edition Player's Handbook Cover Painting

In past essays All Dead Generations has focused on the “Risk Economy” as the engine of classic dungeon crawl Roleplaying - a precarious tower of danger where the players are expected to balance multiple currencies of supply and character survival against the risk of the dungeon’s inhabitants and obstacles while accounting for time’s slow attrition. All Dead Generations has covered ‘Risk’ -- mechanics and design principles, but it hasn’t looked much at the other side of that economy: Reward.

What is the basic reward in the dungeon crawl? As with most styles of classic play the reward for continued play, or perhaps for successful play, is leveling one’s character -- though giving the problem solving nature of classic play it seems likely that this is a less effective reward then it might be in a system that puts more mechanical weight on level, one with a steeper power curve. “Fun” or “play” are obvious from a meta-game standpoint, but without denigrating the ludic joys of roleplaying games, that’s too broad a category to usefully interrogate for mechanics and design principles. However, focusing on this overall goal is a good place to start, to narrow it down and ask “what kind of rewarding fun does the classic dungeon crawl offer?”

I don’t want to suggest that dungeon crawl games offer a unique reward in play, but they do have specific focuses, different from other playstyles. Classic dungeon may offer the gambler’s highs and lows of random success or failure and the storyteller’s joy of creating a fiction, but the mechanics aren’t set up to deliver these kinds of fun, at least not as much as they are to provide the satisfaction of solving a problem or puzzle (the dungeon crawl’s main mode of play) and offering the joy of discovery, ideally the wonder of the strange or unexpected. Revealing description of a fantastical universe through play is hardly unique to a classic play style, but it is emphasized, and made a cornerstone of play in the dungeon crawl through the mechanical weight placed on exploration, the way play demands interaction with the described physical environment. Unlike problem and puzzle solving, this mode of play, the discovery and interaction with the fictional environment hasn’t been specifically described in a past All Dead Generations’ post, though it has been mentioned several times as the concept “Orienteering”.

Old Games

Let’s talk about old tabletop roleplaying games - specifically the kind of games played in the 1980’s and recently depicted in the nostalgia...