Saturday, September 5, 2009

I want to see the manager! or "Who runs this dungeon anyway?"

Just a couple of days ago I found my copy of the 5th ed T&T again. Having used 7.5 for my regular gaming needs, it is very interesting to see how this celebrated edition compare. While the editing it far better than the shoddy job Fiery Dragon did, it still has its quirks. Like missing page numbers!

I did find this one gem I wanted to share, about the making of a dungeon (2.5 How to be a GM):

There is also the consideration of a motivating character, a proprietor -- the mastermind who created the complex within the logic of the fantasy world itself (this is frequently an alter-ego of the person who created the dungeon on paper). This alter-ego may provide a "reason" for the presence of the dungeon, and may or may not take any kind of participation in occurrences within the dungeon itself. My own dungeon Gristlegrim is run by an incredibly ancient and learned wizard of the same name; he rarely puts on personal appearances. On the other hand, Liz Danforth has a devilish little fellow who "built" her dungeon as a lure to entice the unwary into situations where they are willing to bargain for their souls; his personal offices can be found in the lowest levels.

I find this very interesting. Somehow the idea has gotten foothold that once in the early days of the hobby it was all wild merriment without rhyme and reason, and then came dungeon ecology and story; chaos had been conquered and now it all Made Sense. In this quote we see that in the Phoenix Circle they had a driving force behind their dungeons, and a reason for them to exist. The history of the early hobby is different from how it is often told.

I expect there will be more of these kind of hidden glimpses of a bygone age as I continue to peruse this volume. For historians of our hobby is this a goldmine. You all know that Flying Buffalo Inc. still sells this edition, right?

But, I think it has value in a more practical sense as well. My dungeon was the Dungeon of Voorand. My players knew him to be the slightly nutty "god" of the goblins, and he had a very real presence by the gaming table, where any kind of oddness could be blamed on "that crazy goblin". My personal stamp was all over the place, and the play on my name made it even more obvious than the fact that I of course was the one who had drawn the dungeon. Do you want to make up a theme for a dungeon? Think about the proprietor and I bet there will be ideas to use at once.


  1. Have a theme for a dungeon (or wilderness encounter set or whatever) always makes them so much better. And if you can ties it to the 'vision' of one insanely powerful being, so much the better.

  2. Right. I find the idea of a proprietor a good crutch for the imaginations.

  3. Indeed. I like to use agancies that 'host' their dungeon - like Danforth's demon mentioned above. I often have a default assumption that powerful wizards are compelled to dig dungeons by the 'fact' that magic emanates from the center of the world. Plenty turn aside, many driven mad by what they've found on the way.

  4. That's just so cool! A very neat way to explain the increasing weirdness and the propensity for gates and suchlike at deeper levels of dungeons. Me like!

  5. Interesting that you picked up on this, Andreas. We did in fact start asking, almost immediately, Why the heck are there dungeons out here anyway? Selecting a "proprietor" sparked ideas the moment the idea arose.

    I suspect most [DMs, GMs, referees] did this, actually, whatever game they played. The hobby was new and outsiders didn't see the underpinings -- so they made the incorrect assumption there was nothing there.

    Thanks for the kind words on the editing of the Fifth Edition. :)


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