Sunday, April 5, 2009

Review: (Part 2)

Continued from yesterday

Final thoughts

Dungeon-a-day is a very interesting idea. My overall thought is that the website is very slick, and I suspect that Monte will continue to make improvements over time, which means it will get better. We spend a lot of time debating the merits of one rule set over another, or discussing some optional rule set, and discussing game philosophy. It is good to see someone put all that rhetoric aside and actually start working on an ambitious project, which this is. I have to give kudos to Monte for this.

Now I do recognize that there is a bit of criticism about the subscription model. There is a feeling that what one is really getting is just fancy blog, and with the multitude of blogs out there, why would one want to pay for it. This goes back to my discussion on value, and does one consider this as valuable as a magazine subscription. With any internet subscription model, that is the basic question that one has to answer. If one is not interested in an electronic magazine subscription, then this is not for you.

There has also been a bit of discussion on whether or not this is really an old school mega-dungeon. The level maps are a bit small (38 encounter areas on the first level and 24 on the second) and the room entries are a bit long. So I do agree that the map levels are a bit on the small side, but I am ok with this, as I actually like to see more vertical orientated dungeons with half levels in between the main levels. When I am doing my design work on large dungeons, I try to incorporate as many small side levels, as I find that a bit more interesting than just one large flat dungeon. I do recognize this as my preference, and not everyone would agree with me. I think offering vertical choices are more interesting than just a standard horizontal choice.

With regards to the long room descriptions, I think that is the nature of the subscription model beast. If I am going to pay for content, then I want to see content. To put a number on it, if I am going to subscribe to something that promises daily content, then I want to see ~1K of word content. Now this does not mean that I want to see dungeon rooms come in at 1000 words, but rather I want to see a total of ~1000 words between the different articles. Different folks may have a different number in mind, but that is my threshold. Thus far, Monte’s room write ups range between 300 words to up over 1500 words. I fully agree that he could tighten up the descriptions on some of the rooms. However, he is using a room template that while easy to read and use, and does stretch out the room descriptions a bit. Also, the 3rd ed monster write ups can become very bloated, and thus far, Monte has tried to keep the monster stat blocks to an absolute minimum, which I appreciate.

One of the things I really like is the interconnectedness of the dungeon so far. There is an overall dungeon plot to it, and it is not just a collection of rooms. I think that this is truly the key to making a great mega-dungeon. It is relatively easy to create a series of maps and populate them monsters and such. However, it is quite another thing to create a tight interconnected dungeon plot that links rooms and levels together. As a player, it is more interesting to play through a dungeon, if it has a plot, and there are deeper things to discover. This concept of a dungeon plot turns into a puzzle for the players, and I think that this helps stimulate good game play, and keeps the interest going. Levels which are quite independent and divorced from one another may be interesting at first, but I think greater interest comes from dungeon plot that gets revealed as one travels through the dungeon. This is not to say that dungeon should be an adventure path, but rather the plot should be a bit of a puzzle that the players can figure out, and I believe that this leads to better game play.

The last point I do want to mention is Monte’s use of Dwarven Forge miniature terrain. I really like the pictures of dungeon with the Dwarven Forge terrain. When I first started playing D&D, I always wanted to create a 3D dungeon. I will be the first one to say that Dwarven Forge terrain is very stunning when set up. It definitely gives the game a bit eye candy at the table. I personally do not owe any, but I am giving it considerable thought. To run a mega-dungeon using Dwarven Forge terrain (or something similar) would be really cool.

Overall, I do give this product a thumbs up. I think Monte has made good start, and I am hoping that he continues to improve the site. With that said, I realize that this is not for everyone. The subscription model may not work for everyone’s budget. If one is not planning on playing through it, if may not have a high value proposition. However, if one is creating a mega-dungeon, this site has a number of good ideas that are ripe for using. With each room getting its own detailed description, there are plenty of ideas that can be used in one’s own mega-dungeon.

Rating: 4 Dragons (on a scale of 5)


trollsmyth said...

Thanks for doing this. I'm curious how you'd rate things like the tricks, traps, and creativity of the setting? Monty can come up with some great ideas, and sometimes he seems to miss obvious opportunities. How's this megadungeon shaping up in those departments so far?

Mr Baron said...

From a content stand point, I am enjoying what Monte has put together so far, which is why I am giving him high scores.

Without giving away too much, I think I can list out the following stats:

Level 1 - 38 room/encounters
Level 2 - 24 room/encounters

He has published 33 rooms so far, and the first level will be done next week, and he has already posted the second level map.

Monte is trying to come up with something interesting in each room, which I think he has suceeded in this, and there are a handful of rooms that are very good. The other thing that I really like is that there is a plot behind the dungeon which is being revealed in bits and pieces, and there is foreshadowing of what is waiting below.

To summarize on your specific question, I would rate all three (tricks, traps & creativity) very high, but then again, his room entries are coming in at 500+ words each so they are going to be well thought out rooms. I know quantity does not equal quality, but in this case each room is interesting.