A reader by the name of Lanifarne on Dragonsfoot (grognard forum, page 3 of the topic and onward) has commented on my review of Deep Carbon Obervatory, in response to the recent kurfuffle surrounding the statements of the Honoured Kabuki Kaiser, whose Castle Gargantua is currently on my reviewing slab.
Since I am banned from Dragonsfoot (for reasons I cannot recall, but I suspect they might involve RPGPundit in some fashion or another), I sadly cannot comment, but I would be more then happy to comment on them here. Perhaps it was profanity or sockpuppetry. Anyhow, I give full permission to transcribe my responses for the perusal of any of the denizens of Dragonsfoot.
A preliminary clarification is warranted:
Fair Lanifarne writes:
Now, I have to agree with PoN’s sentiments on most of that, but will opine that most of the creative and interesting stuff falls into the second half of the adventure.
I shall not argue over opinions over aesthetics, but merely clarify my opinion. I would argue the first half confirms to my outlined standards of creativty based on the following merits:
1. The opening random-table flowchart from hell is an unconventional way to get characters invested in the setting and the actual encounters somewhat transcend the format of random encounters and many serve a purpose of getting you invested in the adventure, via hooks or whatnot.
2. The magic items are all unique and varied.
3. The encounters in the first part combine to form a bizarre faery tale disaster area sort of aesthetic that I, again, have not seen before.
Yeah, but it is essentially a monstrous, evil version of Pat W’s dungeon golems, from ASE. PoN was charmed by the the module’s creativity, as can be seen here [I’d just ask that he clarify what the OSR is]:
I believe the definition I gave on my blog is something like this one:
OSR: Shorthand for Old school Revolution. An informal group of twats that started making games that emulated the old editions of dnd or were based around the mindset of old school play. Noun, adjective or verb. As in: Ich bin OSR, This blog is OSR, what a bunch of OSR, Prince is one OSR sonofabitch, I OSR’d your girlfriend last night etc etc.
A Broader and somewhat more reverent definition would be:
The OSR is a community of hobbyists who centre around playing, revising, making new material for and otherwise pertaining themselves with, Old School D&D (anything pre 2e if I read it correctly) and other Old School Games of similar design.
The resemblance between the Dungeon Elemental and the Giant is well-spotted (I have not read ASE1), but I would say the juxtaposition of the encounter and the environment is what sells it for me. The serial killer monster gambit is not one I have seen that often (Ragg’s The God that Crawls, somewhat arguably Hadric from X7: The War Rafts of Kron and the Mirror Fiend from X12 come to mind), and I enjoy it when it used to such effect.
Although I like a lot of DCO’s creative ideas and clever descriptions, I’m no where as enthusiastic as PoN overall. If he hadn’t been perma-banned here [bad boy, what did you do?], perhaps he could have followed up his review with some comments in this thread. There’s a big discussion going on now at K&KA regarding the importance of material being polished, immediately useful, and capable of being incorporated into a normal campaign. I do give the Potentate of Nada props for anticipating each of those points one year ago…
I give thanks. It depends on one’s preferences. I will not argue with anyone who states that DCO has a shit (uh, Family friendly alternative: terrible) layout and requires work before use. It is rough, unprofessionally so at times. In general I agree that modules should be designed with utility in mind, but in this case I feel the negatives are outweighed somewhat by the positives. Perhaps I was carried away by the youthful exuberance of my first few read throughs. The way the encounters explode of the page and detonte a firecracker in your brain. The overwhelming cascade of aethetic and game-play generating design choices that crystallize in the hind-brain.
Any further questions r.e my review of the work may be directed at the comment section of this post. I hope this proved somewhat illuminating.
As an aside, I think a big problem with reviewing in general is that one does not have time to playtest all of the products and even if one does, factors like group composition, personal playstyle, GMing style, the open-endedness of DnD and misscelanious factors render a single test run entirely inadequate in determining whether a product would be useful to a general audience. I have tested Carcosa and Tower of the Stargazer extensively and feel that in general, my verdicts on them stand the test of time.
As for material being adaptable for use in a campaign: I disagree. The very hetrogenity that makes the OSR appealing tends to ensure that Campaign world A differs greatly from Campaign World B. The demand assumes a common frame of reference that is often lacking. Even if we assume the reference point is something like Appendix N, the magnitude in which various S&S novels influence the campaign world in question tends to vary. Campaign World A might be more influenced by Amber and Elric whilst Campaign world B drinks deeply of Vance and Clark Ashton Smith. They are both recognisably and unmistakably DnD, yet thematically they are sure to vary.
The only solution is to A) make modules that can be set in a sort of common reference campaign world i.e Greyhawk, but if you do that why not make your own spiffy campaign setting and set your published works therein B) make modules generic and thus easily adaptable or to make modules that do not affect, nor even define, the cosmology and world in which they are set. As I pointed out in my review of Isle of the Unknown, making things generic or undefined makes them boring and less usefull. Let the GM figure out how to incorporate something into his campaign world.
I hope this will help.
EDIT: HELL AND DAMNATION! Both the Cave Giant and the Dungeon Elemental could charitably be said to be inspired by the demon prince Blikdak from Jack Vance’s Guyal of Sfere story.