Wednesday, March 7, 2012

You Can’t Win.

There was a question, several years back, on Finarvyns forum asking about characteristics of a Dave Arneson dungeon design.  Not a lot was said in response, but we did talk about architecture and monsters and such.  Something else just occurred to me; with the exception of the tournament module Haunted Lighthouse, more often than not, you can’t beat a Dave Arneson D&D dungeon, nor are you supposed to.
If you compare Temple of the Frog (1975), Blackmoor Dungeon (1977), Glendower (1977), Temple of ID (1977), The realm of the Egg of Coot, The city of Father Dragon (1977), The City of the Gods (as described in Robilars adventure), the sample Dungeon in AiF, Garbage Pits of Despair, or even the Comeback Inn (1986), The only one of these that a standard, mid-level party of adventurers could reasonably clean out was Glendower.
The rest were designed as limited objective, hit and run adventures.  There was no attempt to “balance” the “challenge level” to the party.  To truly take on these challenges would require a proper army (and a sandtable to play it out on.)  Instead, like the plot of many a commando and sci-fi movie, the small band of adventurers was expected to get in and get out with as much loot as they could manage.
No wonder one of the first things Dave came up with was the pursuit and evasion rules….

10 comments:

  1. DH, were those Arneson dungeons ever printed? I've heard of them in hushed tones (like Castle Greyhawk) but don't remember ever seeing them in print.

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  2. Temple of the Frog was printed in Supplement II, Blackmoor Dungeon was printed in First Fantasy Campaign and also in expanded form by Zeitgeist for D&D3, City of the Gods was printed in DA3 from TSR (withj some additions from Dave Ritchie, I think), and finally Garbage Pits of Despair was published in Different Words Magazine issue #42-43.

    Dan, feel free to correct me and add to the list!

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    1. Yep. Temple of ID, The realm of the Egg of Coot, The city of Father Dragon (1977), were never detailed but are described in general along with some anecdotes regarding adventures that took place there. ID for example had a sun gem on a pedestal. Anyone stealing the gem found themsleves chased by the enormous Id monster, apparently the same as the monster in the Forbidden Planet movie. Glendower has a detailed but unmapped wilderness area in the FFC, and conversly a mapped but undetailed dungeon.

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  3. With so lethals dungeons how a player can expect play a powerful character one day ?

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    1. By playing smart Crabus. By running and running fast when things go bad. By sneaking in and engaging in limited objectives. By carrying a 10' pole... Read Robilar's Journey the City of the Gods here http://www.greyhawkonline.com/canonfire/OJ_06.pdf

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    2. Ahhh the 10' pole.. I always wondered if those were collapsible.

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    3. Pro tip: buy a long spear. You can stick enemies with it AND probe for traps.

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  4. Where was the "Comeback Inn" published?

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  5. It is detailed in two different time periods in DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor" where it forms a large part of the adventure. There's also a brief description in the FFC.

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  6. I had read the FCC description, but never saw the other one. I have it, so thanks for the help!

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