Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dungeon of Signs

What I am supposed to be doing is my taxes. But my day has been all shot-to-shit by running errands, something which irritates me to no end. Sometimes, I enjoy running can be relaxing to get out of the house and do a few things (usually on my own), allowing my mind to wander and yet end with that satisfied sense of accomplishment that comes with doing "the little things" necessary to maintain the home and keep the spouse happy. But a lot of times (especially when I'm in the middle of doing trying to finish a chapter of writing or wading through W-2s), it's a real pain in the ass. Especially when it simply involves ferrying folks through traffic and wasting huge chunks of my time.

So F it...I'm going to blog a bit and decompress.

What I want to write about is dwarves. Their place in D&D, their place in my game, my feelings on the subject. I've been thinking about dwarves quite a bit the last couple-few months, partly because of sharing The Hobbit with my son. I read the book to him at night (we're nearly to The Battle of Five Armies, but our infrequent reading schedule means its been a slow plod), and we've watched the Rankin-Bass animated film at least half a dozen times, probably more. This morning I spent a bit of time reading over all my old posts on the subject of dwarves (not much really, but enough to jog some memories), and I can say with certainty that my thoughts on the little guys has evolved (i.e. changed) from my prior feelings.

But that's going to have to wait for another post.

Because FIRST I need to talk about some stuff that might be pertinent (later) to the dwarf post. See, a couple-four months back I ran across a great series of posts re-skinning the Big Three races of B/X (dwarves, elves, and halvers), that for the longest time I had saved on my Safari browser with the express purpose of linking and discussing. Sadly, I was very busy (this was during the holiday season...followed by football playoffs, etc.) and after many weeks of "not-getting-around-to-it," something happened and I lost the pages. As it wasn't a blogger I usually followed/read, I soon forgot where the hell I'd even seen them.

I've since found them; here they are:

As you might surmise from the titles, these re-skins are delightfully curmudgeonly and irreverent takes on the classic fantasy archetypes. I thought they were a lot of fun...and creative...which is why I wanted to share them. But like I said, I lost the page.

Then, shortly (like, a day) before our trip to Buenos Aires, I came across a link on a different blog that led me back to Dungeon of Signs, home of GusL (formerly "Gibbering Mouther," I believe). This particular link involved his critical analysis and re-tooling of the old B-series modules. All of the posts are good and food for thought and I had finished most of them by the time we finally landed in B.A. I spent much of my free minutes over the course of my four-day holiday reading the rest of GusL's blog offerings. I've caught up on most of it, as of today.

There's something a little depressing (even if inspiring) about truly creative people. Depressing to me, anyway. I don't really consider myself very creative...I analyze, I teardown, I refine, I reconstruct. Actual creation? Not so much. I'm a hack...and for the most part, my stuff is simply hacks of other people's creativity. My own stuff seldom lives up to what I would judge to be "creative."

[not really trying to be self-deprectaing. Just trying to express my feelings, here]

GusL is a very creative person. He's smart, too, and (from what I can tell) much kinder than myself when it comes to his critiques (that is to say, he tends to be a lot less inflammatory). But it's the creativity that makes his blog a great read. I can see why the guy was one of the top finalists in Tenkar's "OSR Superstar" contest. There's a lot of concepts and ideas on his blog that I'd like to discuss besides his re-skins, including the following: faction conflict in adventures, Torchbearer-style systems for resource management in D&D, the "skill system" he uses for characters in his Apollyon setting, exploration over combat, and even his take on the assassin class, which is one of the best I've seen.

I'll probably be referencing GusL's posts in the coming weeks, so if you haven't already been checking it out, you might as well do so now. I wouldn't call his ideas perfect or anything...hell, some of his stuff even qualifies as "miss" in my book. But nearly all of it is noteworthy and/or inspirational stuff, the kind that a hack (like myself) can riff off and refine or develop (to my own taste). I'll say this...I've been moving away from B/X (and LL) for the last couple years, and his work is dangerously close to drawing me back in. The guy is a purple haze of creativity.

All right...time to put the kid down for his nap. Yak least now you've got some new stuff to read.

[yes, I realize GusL has slowed down mightily in his posts of happens. Doesn't mean there isn't good material to peruse. Seriously. Just check out stuff like this. And this, too]


  1. Gus here. Thanks for the kind words, I too borrow, chew up and spit out the ideas of others in a slightly different (and more slobbery) form, all table top is bricoulage, I think it must be (or a folie aux deux) as shared references are needed.

    For example the demihumans in the posts you link are distinctly for Pat Wetmore's ASE and very much beholden to its "crapsack gonzo" feel.

    Borrow away! Thanks again for the positive reccomendation!

    1. @ Gus:

      Oh, I fully intend to. And I get that a lot of your stuff is riffed off others (you're very good about citing your sources). But much of your best work/ideas seem wholely your own.

      Keep it coming!
      : )

  2. As i was preparing to dive into Pat Wetmore's ding dong world of ASE (Henchman Abuse) I found Gus's DoS. Both of these blogs are great resources and are packed full of treasures to be mined. They are/ were (They both need to play more) posting excellent LL/BX based play reports and adventure options, that lead me here to the b/x companion. I am presently reading through Gus's ASE tales for the 3rd or 4th time because they are great. Dwarves are feral little bastards and are likely the failed lab experiments of goblin hive-minds...