Monday, August 17, 2015

Commentary On Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.'s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign KickStarter By Ernest Gary Gygax Jr & Benoist Poiré For Your Old School Campaigns

So I have some thoughts on adventure location design and how it dovetails in with the Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Kickstarter. So what is the Tomb Campaign? What interesting about the Marmoreal Tomb is how the product treats its adventure design setting.
Its design seeks to reflect both the way Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. runs the game, and to be amenable to one's own preferences and play styles. And the following is pure speculation on my part. But I've gotten to know a bit of how the writers and designers think. But there are bound to be surprises and the fact is that I might be entirely wrong! I haven't seen any of the material from Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.'s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign nor Benoist Poiré notes over the last year or so. I do know how much work that went into this product line however. 
THE HOBBY SHOP DUNGEON is an adventure game setting originally created by Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. in 1978 while working as a clerk for the fondly-remembered Dungeon Hobby Shop of Lake Geneva, WI. Inspired by the many games and campaigns he played with his father and many friends, and aided by incomplete maps initially drawn by Terry Kuntz, Ernest came up with a large sprawling dungeon complex that could be used to run games at the store. Since then, more than a thousand players have explored its depths, as remembered by Ernest, including TSR alumni, family members, customers and gamer friends, up to 22 players per sitting! It has been played in a variety of venues including Margaret Weis’s and Don Perrin’s Game Guild, in California’s Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment division, as a special event for game conventions and many more besides.

For the past couple of weeks I've watching the  Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.'s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign KickStarter By Ernest Gary Gygax Jr & Benoist Poiré, the project has been a juggernaut and has been rolling along with gusto. But its been unlocking various goals and add ons since its start. These are interesting to me from a DM's design perspective.Not only is the Marmoreal Tomb its a location that crosses boundaries of time, space, & dimensions. This makes the setting very useful for a DM wanting to run a cross over point adventure where they're own campaigns can converge. This isn't the first product do this, in fact I first noticed this going all the way back to the Labyrinth Lord version of Dwimmermount and expanded upon in the Adventure,Conqueror, King, version of that legendary megadungeon. There will be comparisons of the two mega dungeons, don't the fact is this style of mega dungeon location is unique. Contrasting and comparing mega dungeons is foolish each one is unique and even room locations as well as sections can be miniature ecologies and worlds unto themselves. These never follow the dictates of the 'real world'  at all.

And yes this was a technique that the infamous Carcosa and many of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventures use to great effect.

Basically right out of the gate this means that the adventure location itself is going to touch high fantasy, sword and sorcery, science fiction, post apocalyptic, & even modern alternative Earths. So basically this is a campaign setting that is built to be pug and play from as wide a variety of OSR settings and rule sets  as possible. This adventure is going to cover as many OSR style games as possible from OSRIC to White Star plus everything in between. According to the Kickstarter :
PLAYER'S GUIDES: These are the same Guides as those described above in the Design section, and the same included in the basic pledge levels of this kickstarter. If you want to add one or two copies to a pledge, or would like multiple packs of four for your entire game table, beyond a specific pledge level, this is the good way to go.

OLD SCHOOL REFERENCE AND COMPILATION DOCUMENT (OSRIC): Black Blade Publishing and Stuart Marshall of the First Edition Society have graciously agreed to let us include this fantastic hardcover along with this kickstarter project. This single hardback volume gathers all the first edition rules you will ever need to run the Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter and The Hobby Shop Dungeon proper. If you want to run the game the way it was first envisioned, these are the rules to get, all in one book, for a very decent price.
WHITE STAR - WHITE BOX SCIENCE FICTION ROLEPLAYING: Based on Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, White Star brings all the simple elegance of WhiteBox out of the dungeon and into the stars! This complete roleplaying game includes seven new classes as well as rules for advanced technology, laser weaponry, space combat, and so much more! Ideal add-on with our Science Fiction and Science Fantasy Conversion document for the Marmoreal Tomb!
SCIENCE FICTION AND SCIENCE FANTASY CONVERSION DOCUMENT: This PDF co-authored with James Spahn will detailed how to use the Marmoreal Tomb Main Module and its Expansions in a Sci-Fi universe, instead of a medieval fantasy setting. Includes a complete, sample translation to the White Star Roleplaying Game (see above). 

These games weren't chosen at random by the designers and writers of Marmoreal Tomb Campaign, besides covering the widest possible variety of old school and retroclone systems. The Marmoreal Tomb Campaign is picking up on a design and marketing trend in adventure games, the trend of the adventure as  a tool kit for the design and care of the setting itself. Not everything is going to be mapped out with these products for you the DM, instead your given a whole range of options and guidelines to customize and add in what you need and like. This also means that the metric ton of monsters in the Marmoreal Tomb Campaign come  with their own motives, motivations, and agendas for your PC's along with the adventure being a  world into itself. This means that each of the various toolkits and sections that have been added into the Marmoreal Tomb Campaign. There is going to everything here from PC options to leveling up to simply having your PC killed outright. There are going to be  sections of sheer nasty and lethality that are going to take PC's by surprise. While all of this is pure speculation much of this can be extrapolated from the Kickstarter add ons and rewards. These can also serve as a guide to dealing with your own megadungeon design.

Basically this all goes right back to something that I noticed back in the 80's from TSR. Adventure locations were meant to cross the boundaries of time and space. Not all of them mind you but those campaign benders.  If you look into products like Boothill, Top Secret, and Gamma World then you will see that in the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide there are those damn appendixes. This tells me that given a certain amount of time and energy as well as money we would have seen a rules document to cross these games over with an official TSR setting. But once again this is all simply speculation and wishful thinking on my part or is it?
Or is it?  If  the Marmoreal Tomb Campaign represents a trend in adventure design then you can bet your life that your going to see a bunch of these adventures. And it also brings me to the heart and soul of this entry. The Marmoreal Tomb Campaign represents another style adventure design, namely that the adventure setting is at the center of the action. The PC's while important are stumbling upon a place whose events were set in motion centuries ago. This emphasis on adventure location vs PC is one of the differences that marks old school design from new school. In new school design everything is about the characters from attributes to equipment, in old school PC death doesn't matter. The show will go on in the adventure setting, your PC has been killed. Alright everyone take a smoke break so that Sarah or Fred can roll up a new PC and the show will go on.  So what about the fact that the setting transcends time and space? Well this is actually a great thing and here's why. You don't have to keep spending money over and over again to get expansions for your setting. Because your adventure location is your setting are campaign settings unto themselves. The fact is that  megadungeons are sprawling affairs that can take years to play. My feeling is the Marmoreal Tomb Campaign is going to be one of these affairs.
Do I think that you might want to get on board the Marmoreal Tomb Campaign kickstarter? I believe the answer is yes and your not going to be sorry because these guys have worked out all of the details and rewards over a year ahead of time. Just something to keep in mind.

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