Saturday, December 25, 2010

Actually Using The Dungeon Alphabet

Most reviews of The Dungeon Alphabet I've read go like this:

Have you seen that blog, Society Of Torch, Pole, and Rope?
(Yes, it's good.)
Well that guy took his entries about The Dungeon Alphabet and made them into a book!
(Well ok.)
Then they tell you it has these descriptive little entries on the possibilities of various dungeon features (statues, altars, etc.) (which either:
A-you've already read on the blog, or...
B-you haven't and can no longer read on the blog)
and that it includes "awesome illustrations and inspirational random tables."

Now if you're like me, you know where you're thinking the meat here is. I like a good picture as much (actually, more) than the next guy, but there's about a million man-hours worth of RPG art I still haven't gotten around to looking at on-line, much less in things I'd pay money for and as for the little mini-essays, hey, I already read them.

So let's take a look at these here tables...

As you may know, my standards for dungeons are obnoxiously high, or at least very particular. As you may not know, it's Christmas Eve, I can't sleep, and when I can't sleep I design megadungeons in my head...

So I am going to review The Dungeon Alphabet page-by-page, based solely on the following criteria:

How many ideas from this book am I going to steal?

Cover--Erol Otus drew an eyeball monster riding a snake. I might steal this idea. I will admit that despite having heard "The End" approximately 4 million times since I was 14 it never occurred to me to have a monster ride a snake. Jesus I'm stupid, but still: 1 Point.

Now some charming drawings of excellent dungeon stuff but they're all oldies-but-goodies, so no points here...table of contents and legal stuff...Pg. 2 Zeb Cook's intro. While having someone who used to work at TSR write an intro to your book is definitely an idea worth stealing, it's not going in my dungeon, so skip that...3-4 is Curtis' intro...

5 is an evil priestess with slicey arms sacrificing a guy...

What's actually happening is she's cutting him open and his spirit is going into a wiggly demon, but when I first saw the picture I thought the whole demon was coming out of him when he died because he was originally containing it for some reason. That idea has legs. Since, to be fair, it's based on me misinterpreting the picture, I'll give half a point.

Ah, A is for altars, first table...

Appearance: ok, one entry says "stone slab held up by preserved corpses" oh, a that's good one-- point...Accoutrements...2...3...special properties...4...5...

So: 5 ideas. That's 6.5 ideas in 6 pages. Doing pretty good here.

7 B is for books...1...oh and there's a book title chart on the next page...1 point there...8.5 total

9 C is for caves, no points, though, to be fair, I hate caves.

I should stop giving away the list I guess...

10 some standard stuff
11 One...two...
"incredibly, the echoes are not in the original language spoken. Instead, the party hears their conversation repeated in dwarven, goblin, or a long-dead language. The content remains the same, only the language has changed."
Nice. zero
17: one
18, 19, 20: 1
22, 23, 24...1
27, 29-1

22.5 ideas 48 pages. That's almost an idea every other page. pdf (the preferred format for those of us who are non-collectors and who are ignoring whether the art's any good...) that's $5.35.

So I did the math and even for this jaded soul The Dungeon Alphabet comes out to better than 4 ideas worth stealing per dollar. I haven't seen value for money like that since Deadwood got cancelled. Rock.


  1. I also think books have an artifact value; I like them as a format style. Neither here nor there, but I will buy repackaged content if I prefer the format.

  2. There's a lot of that going around. The actual book is 9.99--which is still a good deal.

  3. I love this book! True, the quality of the random tables does vary. Some just aren't useful at all, but most have at least a few good ideas. Last spring I drew up a dungeon using an essentially random selection of words from the book, then rolled on the appropriate tables. The dungeon I got turned out very well, and I've run it for a number of groups since then.

    Map is here:

  4. ...& I did go ahead & pick it up. Merry Xmas Ho ho ho. Thanks to my co-workers for the Amazon gift certificate etc. The rest of it went towards buying The Night Lands which I am pretty excited to read.

  5. It's a fun little book chock full of great ideas ( love the one where the PC's encounters a group of undead adventures who think they're still alive). I also like the videos of Michael Curtis ongoing Labyrinth Lord Campaign.

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