I finally finish up my review of this issue, Alternate Dungeons, with +Steven Marsh‘s Random Thought Table.
Dungeon Fantasy is full of entertaining tropes, some used for amusement, some for simplification, and some for the one true purpose of absolute and total mayhem. Alternate Dungeons takes this and attempts to come at you sideways.
The previous reviews for the issue are:
Pointless Slaying and Looting ( +Sean Punch )
Dungeons of Mars (Phil Masters)
From the Bottom Up ( +Matt Riggsby )
Eidetic Memory: Good Dungeons ( +David Pulver )
Dungeon Fantasy Video Gaming ( +Christopher R. Rice )
and of course . . .
Random Thought Table: To Conjure the Unknown ( +Steven Marsh )
Summary: Steven looks at how to shake up a bog-standard dungeon crawl by taking a bit of a mutually-exclusive and comprehensively exhaustive look at how to alter the concept. Bring something new to the table. Add something that wasn’t there before. Take something away that usually is, or take a trope and tweak it hard.
Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: The style is conversational and a good bookend to the issue. The execution is solid, covering the relevant parts of the topic mostly by example. 1 point.
Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: Comprehensively covers the topic of how to make a standard dungeon crawling campaign feel not-so-standard. The examples he chooses come from a variety of game systems as well as concepts, so there’s a deep well here. 4 points.
Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: In a way, this can’t really be “drop-in,” in that there are no real worked examples and most of the advice covers campaign preparation and worldbuilding. The sections on additive and transformative game tweaking, though, could be applied to the next episode of a campaign, though – so it’s not completely “do it from scratch or forget it” – there’s a real possibility to take some of this stuff and weave it into the right game. 1 points.
Overall: 6/10. The rating doesn’t really do the article justice, and that’s an artifact of the point scale having 40% of the weighting being stuff you can rip off and just use. This is a fun read, and rounds out the article nicely: if you’re going for an “alternate” dungeon, how can you make it feel differently than a normal campaign beyond the usual “we’re using X magic system instead of the usual Y” mechanical trade-offs.
Would I use it? Yes. Were I planning a dungeon crawl campaign that was a bit different than the usual, this article makes a fine guidepost.
Biases Aside: An alternate scoring if you’re approaching the article as not-me.
- Lack of Proscriptive Options: It wasn’t really the point of the article, but if you’re looking for someone to tell you “if you want an alternate dungeon, do X, and here’s a worked example for GURPS,” then you didn’t find it here. That would bump Writing/Execution down to 0 points (well written, solid, but neither distracting nor particularly engaging), and maybe Inspiration down to 2-3.
- Inspiration is Drop-in Utility: I give utility ratings based on what you can pretty much directly pluck from the article and start using immediately. If you are often planning new campaigns or have easy entry to different ideas and are only lacking some inspiration, then this might be 2-3 points.
Upper-Lower bound Rating: As low as 4/10 if you really have to have worked examples given to you to make it sing. As high as 8/10 if the inspiration makes it drop-in for your gaming needs.