Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: The Dungeon Dozen

One of the first gaming blogs I stumbled across when renewing my familiarity with the hobby was Jason Scholtis' The Dungeon Dozen. If you're not following it, then please allow me to introduce you to your favorite new thing!

Scholtis writes "...flavor-rich yet detail-free idea stimulation for fantasy RPGs in the form of random tables for the underused 12-sided die." 

Occasionally, these dip into the actually-useful, but for the most part, Scholtis is creating a new literary form—poems of dehydrated weirdness strung together by the idea of random generation more than the practice. They are great fun to read, and an inspiration. I don't know how many times I've read a single entry on one of these tables and thought "There's a whole scenario/campaign/multi-generational mega-plot right there." 

You don't roll these tables. You read them and then you dream better dreams.

But don't take my word for it:
Disastrous/Abandoned Projects of the Gods
The Oracle Has Bad News
Yeah, But the Gaze of THIS Cockatrice...
Under the Evil Wizard's Hat
In the Philosopher's Spell Book

I've gotten so much enjoyment out of these lists that I've gone to the blog specifically looking for a "Donate" button, because this guy deserves my money.

And now he has some of it! Because he has released a collection! It is available via POD and pdf. 

I picked up a softcover. It's just the thing to leave on the bedside table as a way of reminding the Lovely Wife, "Yup. You're married to this. This is not gentle hispter-nerdism. This is primal. This goes deep. Your husband put a bookmark in at "Over-the-Counter Dungeon Unguents.""

Point being: I recommend it. If anything, Sholtis is setting his sights too low by marketing it just to rpg folks. I think this would appeal to anyone who likes any form of genre gonzo goofiness, which is a pretty wide circle. You know who'd like this book? Grant Morrison. He should have a pull-quote on the cover. So should Robt. Williams. And Penn Ward. And the revenant of André Breton should write the introduction.

My one note would be about the art. The art is great. It's fun and odd and kinda old school grody in a way that is really simpatico with the random tables. But. It's too simpatico. Given that these are lists of weird details that wake up crazy pictures in your mind, having those same details drawn out for you actually lessens the effect of the lists. They're redundant.

How could I possibly be complaining about this?

If, say, I were an art director at Chronicle Books, and we were going to put this book on the "We're Sorry You Married a Nerd" table in every Barnes & Noble in creation (which someone should definitely do), I'd want to pair the text with spare images that led you to look to the text for details. Such as pictograms.

Nikolai Belkov's Olympic Pictograms. Imagine these, but about Terrestrial Angler Fish.

Or silhouettes.

Lotte Reiniger. Imagine this, but... no, just imagine this.

Available at RPGNow and the D20PFSRD shop as pdfs, and at Lulu as pdf, hardcover, and softcover.