Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Just Spitballing

The other evening my son was complaining that he "didn't have anything to read;" a blatant lie since there are book shelves throughout our home (Six in the office alone! Two in my kids' bedroom) literally overflowing with books. Really...we have about (hold on, I'm counting)....eleven-ish book shelves PLUS piles of books on bedside tables, side tables, coffee tables, etc.

Why don't you read one of the three books you just got from the library the other day? "They're BORING. I want something that's like D&D...like with D&D characters, doing D&D stuff." Oh. 

I picked up a copy of Dragons of an Autumn Twilight off the shelf I have designated for nostalgic-crap-paperbacks and handed it to him. Yes: I am a terrible parent.

"Hickman? Didn't he write Ravenloft?" Yep. "What's this?" It's a D&D book about D&D characters doing D&D things. "Really?" Yeah. It's crap, but when I was your age, I thought it was great.


My own Dragonlance journey is evolving in a different fashion. My research has been more focused on The Atlas of the Dragonlance World, DL11: Dragons of Glory, DL14: Dragons of Triumph, and (to lesser extents) the Players Guide to the Dragonlance Campaign and the 2nd Edition Tales of the Lance. What might be surprising, though, is HOW I'm using them...see, I don't really give a rip about rules for kender or minotaurs or the various knightly (proto-)prestige class mechanics: that's all stuff I can do myself (and probably in an easier, if not more eloquent, fashion).

Likewise, I'm not overly concerned with the creation myths and pseudo-history of Krynn (or their particular cosmology which is mostly silly and generally ignored in the fiction and published adventures)...who cares with how gully dwarves came into being?  Instead, I'm mining the thing for information that IS useful for a campaign set in the DL world: nations and states, population demographics, climate conditions, geography (pre- and post-Cataclysm), trade goods. All that is ALSO stuff I could weave from whole cloth myself...but it's a lot less work for me if I just use their stuff and worry about how it all factors into their economy and the economic war machine.

Dragons of Glory is also an interesting book...probably more interesting than most people give it credit for. "Timelines of the universe" (when the gods were created; when the gods created humans, elves, etc.) are NOT interesting (and anyway, shouldn't that all be confined to the realms of myth and creation story, i.e. like our "real world?"). Timelines of war and the movements of armies ARE...so long as they can be grounded in some semblance of reality. DL11 is one of the first places I've seen that shows another great justification for the "no cleric" world of Krynn: armies are forced to carry their own provisions, rather than rely on create food spells (ridiculously low level in AD&D). And how much food does a dragon eat, anyway? Sure, dragons are the fantasy equivalent of "air support" but are they troop transports, resupply vessels, or strafing/bombing vehicles? Remember: dragons are lazy (chromatic dragons, especially, have high "sleeping" percentages)...they are not uber-monsters that can go-go-go, indefinitely.

I know, I know..."Who cares, JB? We're not running a wargame here!" No, you're not...and neither am I. But it's important for world building. I keep coming back to that term; one of these days, I'll spend 10,000+ words defining exactly what I mean. Here's the TL;DR version: it's the OPPOSITE of half-assing one's scenario creation for your D&D campaign. Lookie here:

Say you're a DM that wants to run an adventure for a group of friends. You've got this great "tomb" adventure or...hell...how about a module? Let's say I3: Pharaoh (I remember that one being pretty good). You set a weekend aside and run it for your buddies. They have a great time. "Can we do it again next week?" Do what? "Play D&D!" Um...sure. What do you want, another tomb?

Set aside (for the purpose of this post) all thought of the "mega-dungeon," a relic from the most primordial days but bearing as little resemblance to the glory of the "true" D&D game as a board game (board games are more succinct and satisfying than mega-dungeons, in my Not So Humble opinion). As I said: set it aside for the moment. What do YOU, Mr./Ms. DM plan on doing next? You, Dancing Monkey, how are you going to entertain these individuals, week-after-week, month-after-month, year-after-year? You going to keep buying PDFs off of DriveThruRPG for the requisite levels of your players?

How empty.

You need a world; you need context for your players. NOT background (and certainly not "backstory!")...just a world for exploration. Dungeons? Sure...you can shoehorn dungeons into most any world. Krynn's got a dozen plus (the DL series). Greyhawk's got a bunch. I know Mystara does. And I'm sure Ye Old Forgotten Realms has a plethora, even before the advent of 2E (wasn't the "H" series of Bloodstone set in FR?). I've had no problem slotting pre-published modules of all stripes into MY campaign world (a fantasy Washington State). "Insert dungeon" is standard operating practice

But the world...you need the world. Without the world, it's all hollow. 

Ugh. Okay. I'm going to try to write about this tomorrow (though it's my kids' short school day; maybe Thursday?). Just too many distractions today. School shooting down the street. Wife freaking out. Kids coming home early. Mid-term voting. And ALSO the start of basketball season (for the boy...kids plays all the sports). Jeez. Busy day. Currently finishing this post at a bar while drinking a beer...but I've got to go.

More later. 


  1. I disagree with you on the megadungeons with the following caveat: a megadungeon should not be a series of Quantum Leap episodes with no connecting narrative other than the PC. This means that there should be multiple objectives for the PCs within the dungeon, increasing in difficulty as they descend. It should also have limits, I think that 24-36 locations per level and 9-12 levels is enough.

    On the school shooting thing. America seems so similar to Scotland and then poof! something outside of my experience jumps in to remind me that it isn't in a lot of ways. Stay safe.

    1. Thanks, Jacob. Doing my best but…well, you never know when a bus might blindside you, either.

      Re Mega-Dungeons

      My point probably wasn’t very clear, but even if it was you might STILL disagree with me.
      ; )

      I’m composing my thoughts on the subject right now. It’s…challenging. Hopefully be posted tomorrow.