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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

And I Say Unto Thee - Dwimmermount, What Have We Wrought? (Spare 2k Coppers Gov-nuh?)



Sometimes, you just don't find what you are looking for where you expect to find it. I certainly didn't expect to find the latest Dwimmermount updates over at the RPGSite, so color me surprised when I was told to look there for the latest. I did, and it seems Alexander Macris, who has taken the reins from Tavis, who in turn took them from James Mal, posted to the Dwimmermount thread on the RPGSite recently.
The underlying problems of Dwimmermount all arise from the fact that it is the product of an improvisational Judge with a knack for using random tables and in-game imagination. This shows up in (a) how blandly certain rooms are described, (b) how treasure and monsters appear, and (c) most of all in how the weave of the dungeon ties together (or rather doesn't). 
There is plenty of fun, playable, interesting material for a game table. I agree that a team of independent editors could surely have filled in the gaps in the individual levels (problems A and B) and made each one a more fun experience. But I don't think anyone but an "auteur" (I use that word for lack of a better one) can tie it all together (problem c). 
Anyway, I'm actually drafting at about 3 times the pace I expected - I finished 3 chapters in a week - and am optimistic in what I'll deliver.
A and B and yes, even C were problems in our aborted playtest way back when. Heck, that was 2,000 coppers ago and a few dead rats t00.
It's not that I'm trying to impose my philosophy (that's a forlorn hope) I'm trying to impose coherency. So, for instance:
-- Chapter 7, Factions, clearly states that the Spawn of Arach-Nacha has given the Mad Dwarf the power to create kobolds.
-- Level 1 says that the Mad Dwarf is just mad, and the Spawn of Arach-Nacha is lying. 
Or, for instance, James will say that the Elemental Planes are actually alien worlds lush with a particular element (so like Fire is actually a volcanic world, Water is an ocean world) and then in another place he'll say the opposite.
Etc., etc., etc. 
People who don't care about such things already have a playable draft of the dungeon; many people have already run entire campaigns in Dwimmermount. So the real hold-up is what goes into the pretty book for time immemorial.  
I guess I'd rather be Blizzard, and ship in when it's good, even if it's late, then EA and ship it still borked.
The thing is, even Blizzard ships at some point.

and from the Dwimmermount Kickstarter page's comments from a few days ago (also from Alex)
Some of you might wonder "what problems and plot holes is Alex referencing and why would they require consideration before getting to the real work of writing?" To that, I suppose I have be honest and admit that I am constitutionally opposite J.Mal. in that I'm a preparer and systemizer rather than an improviser. So I'm speaking of issues such as:  
- Why would the Terrim keep the Sleeping God on hand as a deterrent weapon of mass destruction if its activation is controlled by the Great Machine, which is in the hands of their enemies?  
- Why would the Lawful-aligned Prison which has ensnared Turms Termax be under the control of the Chaotic Sleeping God?  
- If Gods such as Typhon are Lawful, why would they create the Eld if doing so would represent a turning away from Law? If they aren't Lawful, what is their relationship to Law and why do they grant Lawful spells?  
- If the Secrets of the City of the Ancients are so amazing, why would a 9HD Dwimmerdragon have stopped the Eld, Thulians, and Termaxians from invading?
And on and on. In the process of answering these sorts of questions, I believe that I will deliver a dungeon to you that will ultimately be a much more satisfying product to read and run. We of course expect Judges to make up their own answers, but at least you can improvise from a coherent framework that fits together.
I never realized how screwed up this mess actually was.

I've ceased to look forward to this except for idle curiosity.

83 comments:

  1. This actually sounds more interesting than it has in months. I say they should keep the book as screwed up as possible.

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    1. Yeah, I say just let this thing run as is a la First Fantasy Campaign. It doesn't need to be internally consistent to be interesting or useful.

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    2. This Alex guy is obviously a frustrated novelist who wants to turn it into Dragonlance 2. I was never very interested in Dwimmermount (it always sounded kind of bland and generic to me, at least in the session reports) and having it in the hands of a "story gamer" just seals the deal by adding insult to injury. I'll definitely pass on this.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Comment removed after reading the rest of the comment thread.

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  2. It does sound like a complete, total G7CF.
    But the above snippets almost sound interesting. Glad I've got no skin in this game but it's fascinating to watch the ride. Or something.

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    1. G7CF? Is that like going from the dominant V chord, back to the I and then hanging on the IV? Because that's a fairly good musical analogy.

      Hmmm, I could write one of these module thingies!

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    2. Grade seven cluster.... I'm assuming.

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    3. Czak is correct. But Darcy, that has potential. I'll have to see if I can't come up with something suitable.

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  3. Inconsistencies aren't bad if done on purpose, though some follow up and impact would help give the weirdness more life.

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  4. I'm glad I took my refund when it was offered!

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  5. There is a whole "Lost in La Mancha" vibe to this.

    Cautionary tale here: Make sure you have your shit together and someone else can read it and understand it.

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  6. Oof. I'm a backer [ :blush: ] and had stopped paying close attention - I somehow missed that Alex was stepping in for Tavis. This thing is a regular Greek tragedy. I tend to think Alex will get it done, but I'm kinda with Jason Zavoda - it would have been interesting just slapping some great artwork and maps in there and letting it rip.

    Either way, it's a project that gets talked about. A lot.

    So - how about that Barrowmaze?

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    1. I daresay there might be another megadungeon, recently released, that might also catch your eye (::whistles aimlessly::)...

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  7. If I had ever been interested in this, the fact that the guy is referring to "plot holes" (and therefore to an assumed "story") would have changed my mind. I want interesting locations for adventure, not a lot of convoluted backstory from some frustrated novelist. Pass.

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    1. Internal consistency is a solid requirement for a fair, interesting adventure location...

      (Not that I really agree with the handling in this case, but I also don't have any real investment in this project.)

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    2. Not really. Internal consistency is a hobgoblin of storytellers. If it's a fun adventure location, no one cares if it's "coherent".
      And, by now, this is a red hot mess of a train wreck. Time to stop throwing good money and time after bad, slap some lipstick in this pig, and get it out the door.

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  8. I don't think it is a case of frustrated novelist. The plot holes and such that are under discussion here are reconciling the interaction of different "generations" of occupation. The site has had different masters over time, and each has left its impression. I fully approve of rewarding the alert player who is piecing together the history of a place, and if they come up with a burning question (like the ones mentioned) I want to reward their attentiveness by having material they can find or exploit that makes a difference.

    To me, the difference is in whether the holes are in the back story or in the road forward. Dragonlance was a novel unfolding. This is more like making sure the Silmarillion makes sense before you run Lord of the Rings.

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    1. You can't have "plot holes" without having a "plot" in the first place. An OSR megadungeon shouldn't have a "plot"; that's supposed to be up to the players. The fact that Dwimmermount is now in the hands of someone who doesn't understand what actually matters to an OSR megadungeon (hint: it isn't reconciling a bunch of backstory) isn't a very good sign.

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    2. "You can't have "plot holes" without having a "plot" in the first place"

      Truth.

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    3. Okay, then I suggest considering this difference. If "plot" is what happens going forward, then we have "backstory" here. I mean, this is not about tidying up what is going to happen when you drop adventurers in the setting. This is about what happened before, that informs the centuries of occupation that already unfolded in this place.

      This is about helping player skill be relevant. If the players bother paying attention to the history that can be found about what happened in Dwimmermount, then they should be able to draw conclusions that can help them deal with factions.

      It's like good mapping reveals the location of possible secret doors. Astute attention to the history may reveal weak points, insights, or goals in the mega dungeon. Not everyone has to pay attention to this. But if they do, there should be internal consistency and some benefit to doing so.

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    4. Well, this Alex guy was the one who used the term "plot". That tells me he has the wrong attitude to be working on an Old School megadungeon (as he pretty much admits). It's not an encouraging sign, to say the least.

      As for the rest of it, do you really believe Castle Greyhawk was "internally consistent"? I'm SURE that it was anything but. So was Gary Gygax "doing it wrong"?

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    5. To me this isn't about "right" and "wrong." Different people will have different preferences. When I got into the Dwimmermount project, I thought it was a dungeon that had emerged through play and had been explored. I thought I was signing on for something that had internal consistency and was already fleshed out.

      As it turns out, it was a double handful of notes and a lot of conceptual stuff. Frankly, I don't have any interest in buying that. I can do that on my own easily enough. What I wanted was something that had been tested out and developed its own culture in play.

      I don't think there is anything wrong with a "funhouse" dungeon. But I have no interest in running or playing one. I like the concept of the "mythic underworld" meaning that you can do whatever you want and shrug, and say "magic" if people raise questions. But, that's not what I thought Dwimmermount was when I backed it. That's not what I want from this project.

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    6. It sounds like you're in luck. Alex has stated he won't release the project until he's thoroughly finished chewing your food for you.

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  9. On the other hand, considering the dirty way J. Mal treated his OSR backers, it's kind of fitting that his project was handed over to Tracy Hickman's love child for completion. I just feel sorry for the backers who are probably going to get some kind of (more?) heinous abortion... if they ever get anything at all.

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  10. When Alex says things like:

    "Some of you might wonder "what problems and plot holes is Alex referencing and why would they require consideration before getting to the real work of writing?" To that, I suppose I have be honest and admit that I am constitutionally opposite J.Mal. in that I'm a preparer and systemizer rather than an improviser."

    I submit that makes him a poor fit for this project. It's not an adventure for a preparer and a systemizer. If he is going to fold, spindle, and mutilate it to fit his own predilections, I fear that it will lose the uniqueness infused by James M. that drew me to it in the first place.

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    1. I think the whole project may be a poor fit in that case. For an improvisational DM, what you really need is up to 3 levels and some notes. Not a massive fleshed-out mega dungeon anyway.

      I think improvisers have to grow their own megadungeons. Only preparers and systemizers can prepare them for others.

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  11. Replies
    1. I didn't want to use that term, but it was exactly what I was thinking.

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  12. The original material is available to backers.

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    1. Now, Rob, there you go talkin' sense when a whole mess o' good people just want to take a nice, torchlit stroll out to the mill. You some kinda killjoy?
      ;-)

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    2. :-D
      Well it worse not only the lightly edition original draft is available. Scans of the original notes that James used are available as well.

      And Autarch will release the Labyrinth Lord version as open content.

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    3. It still doesn't make it any less of a messed up situation.

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  13. Past problems with Dwimmermount aside, I have a hard time understanding why addressing certain "plot" inconsistencies is such a big deal. Many of us have written games, play aids or modules from scratch. Now for me at least, writing a game is difficult, often annoying and takes time. But give me a 100 page megadungeon with finished text and ask me to clear up a few story contradictions, and I'll give it back to you next week.

    Or so it would seem. I suspect I'm missing something.

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    1. What you're missing is that an old school megadungeon doesn't (or at least isn't supposed to) have a "plot" or a "story" until the players create one through play. Elaborate backstory is just a whole lot of "Who shot John?" and an excellent indicator that a railroad awaits. We can't have the players missing any of our amateur fiction, can we? Plus, quite frankly, I can't read those quotes from Alex without hearing them in Comic Book Guy's voice: "Worst. Megadungeon. Ever."

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    2. You know that JMal was the one who created the backstory in the firdst place? The History of the dungeon?
      The Autarch team did not create the backstory. The just got handed an uncoherent mess of half written stuff.
      By way the even Barrowmaze, ASE, Stonehell Dungeon and many other OSR Dungeons have a backstory.
      All railroad fiction?

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    3. Well, I can't be absolutely sure as I haven't read all of those dungeons. However, I would be very surprised if many of them use the word "plot". That's a red flag term that a frustrated novelist is preparing to tell you a STORY, rather than run a GAME. In any event, the biggest difference is that those dungeons were completed by their creators, so whatever they are is what their creators INTENDED them to be. In this case, we have a third party, whose tastes are admittedly not simpatico with those of the original author, imposing his ideas of "coherence" on the dungeon. What makes him (or you) so sure that the "backstory" is "half-written"? Maybe it's EXACTLY as incoherent and contradictory as James INTENDED for it to be. In which case, what right does this Alex guy have to impose his personal tastes on somebody else's dungeon? That's not even to consider the fact that backers have been waiting for this product for YEARS. Now they have to wait even longer while some random Comic Book Guy/Rain Man type tries to satisfy his OCD? Ugh.

      One of the closest thing to an actual Old School megadungeon is Temple of Elemental Evil, which I do have. The "backstory" is rudimentary and contradicts other TSR products. Gary and Frank apparently didn't care. Alex "Son of Tracy" Hickman cares deeply. The question, then, is who is right about what matters to an Old School megadungeon: Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer, or Alex Whoever? (Hint: It's Gary and Frank.)

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    4. Ok, I think we first have to define Plot. If Plot is a Story that unfolds during the adventure and the PCs just play along, then Plot has nothing to do in OSR. If Plot is a backstory that explains why the Dungeon is how it is and why there are different factions (as it is done in ToEE), then Plot is nessary IMHO to create an environment that is different to the next dungeon.
      If we take the latter definition of Plot, there are two of possible explanations why elements of the Plot are contradictionary.
      First, the author referees on the fly and takes things as they come. His dungeon is a barebones work with the Plot being bits and pieces the referee can tie together on his own and create a working environment.
      Or the auther creates a Plot where during different times and whose different factions all have different views on the reality of the environment. Even if A sees things different as B and in time 1 things are differnt than in time 2 the environment referee has a working environment he can use out of the box.
      Now IMHO the more complex the Plot gets, the more you need a coherent working environmet of the second type. And from what I read of the Dwimmermount dokuments (I am a backer) JMal created a fairly complex Plot.
      Otherwise why bother at all to create a Plot that is unusable without a lot of work on the referees side? I can do that on my own.

      But as always YMMV.

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  14. ANOTHER hand off? Well, this is the icing to the shit cake my day has been. Thankfully I backed at the PDF level, so I'm not out much of anything. But shit, reading his blog got me into the whole OSR. So it's been sad to see the nose dive he has taken since starting that KS.

    And someone fill me in: what's with the butthurt over Dragonlance and a coherent backstory?

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    1. @Byteninja

      The "butthurt" over the Dragonlance thing, is that it's supposed to be a dungeon crawl, not a railroaded story game. There's nothing inherently wrong with a game centered on a DM driven story (if you like that sort of thing) except that some might argue that the whole point of a dungeon crawl or a sandbox, is that the story emerges from play not the other way around ... or a back-story is usually mostly incidental to hacking your way through weird, chthonian, depths, in search of gold, treasure and glory.

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    2. Well, both those things are diametrically opposed to everything James wrote on his blog. One of his posts is even titled "How Dragonlance Ruined Everything" (I suppose because he was too polite to use the more appropriate title "Why Dragonlance is a Pile of Shit"). I daresay at least some of the incoherence in Dwimmermount was probably deliberate on his part - let each DM decide whether the elemental planes are balls of lava or whatever. So it's a bit of a poke in J. Mal's eye to introduce "a foolish consistency" into the published version of Dwimmermount. On the other hand... maybe he deserves it. Ending his blog was one thing, but an adult doesn't get to flake on his financial responsibilities just because he has personal problems. I just feel sorry for the backers, who are probably going to get some horrible bastardized "adventure path" courtesy of this Alex joker.

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  15. I think a valid point could be made that Alex by nature is not ideal for Dwimmermount. (and to throw out some opposition to the Alex-bashing I think his blog is great and he's a decent guy; but maybe not OSR enough for the job, judging from this tough crowd's take).

    Maybe this would work better in the hands of Goodman or someone who has a tighter interest in the loose, contradictory and free-form encouraging approach of the original module? Almost every contradiction Alex names in his discussion, while sounding problematic on the surface, can be resolved in two seconds by adding "Some rumors suggest...." in front of all the offending sentences.

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  16. If you were given the job of finishing Dwimmermount what would be your method of handling this?

    Chapter 7, Factions, clearly states that the Spawn of Arach-Nacha has given the Mad Dwarf the power to create kobolds.

    Level 1 says that the Mad Dwarf is just mad, and the Spawn of Arach-Nacha is lying.

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    1. In his madness, the Mad Dwarf suffers from amnesia and has forgotten he can create kobolds.

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    2. You have, nevertheless, edited the dungeon in such a way as to resolve the inconsistency.

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    3. Easy fix:

      If questioned about this "inconsistency" by players, I simply say "No one knows if the Spawn of Arach-Nacha is lying, or if the Mad Dwarf truly is just mad. Now, whatcha gonna do?"

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    4. I wouldn't. Let each and every DM handle it however they see fit!

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    5. Mwschmeer: Wouldn't it be better, though, for the *dungeon itself* to explicitly say to the DM who has bought it, "No one knows if the Spawn of Arach-Nacha is lying, or if the Mad Dwarf truly is just mad" rather than say contradictory things and just assume the DM is supposed to figure out what he's supposed to do?

      Otherwise, it seems like you are saying you would prefer that the dungeon be written "esoterically," in the Platonic/Straussian meaning of that word: a text that purposefully is contradictory so that only the enlightened masters can decipher its true meaning.

      I know that there is a school of thought that views the Gygaxian DMG as a Talmud-like esoteric tome and thinks esotericism is therefore essential to old school play, so perhaps that IS your argument. ?

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    6. @AM - maybe? However how important is it that the story of a mad dwarf on level 1 and the Spawn on level 7 say the same thing in the grand scheme of the dungeon? At this point, I think you kind of have to presume that anyone who's looking for a nice complete megadungeon has MULTIPLE options that are already complete, published, and are still supported. What support is Dwimmermount going to have? The original author who got all of the backers to give him money is silent, Travis (bless his dice) passed it on to you and then there was silence for over a month from the one place I expect to get news about this first - the kickstarter itself.

      At this point I'm worried that perfect has become the enemy of good (and done). Dwimmermount is rapidly approaching 2 years overdue.

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    7. David Brawley: Who is to say what is going to be important at any particular table? We aren't talking about a Dragonlance module, where everything that is important is predetermined, and every outcome is also.

      Anyway, late for 2 or 3 years, not good enough forever.

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  17. I think commercial adventures need plots, as in "world in motion" kind of plots where a series of things happen a certain way unless the PCs intervene.

    I don't think a megadungeon needs an overarching plot, as in if you treat it like a city setting supplement, all you need are locations, NPCs/monsters, and tons of hooks.

    Internal consistency is either or; Like Tori said, don't confuse legend with history and everything should work out fine.

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    1. "I think commercial adventures need plots, as in 'world in motion' kind of plots where a series of things happen a certain way unless the PCs intervene."

      I agree that commercial adventures MAY have such "plots" depending on what they're trying to accomplish - for example, a mystery or political intrigue would probably need such a "plot" - but I strongly disagree that adventures in general (commercial or otherwise) NEED such a "plot". There's nothing wrong with adventures where the PCs take the initiative and are 100% the movers of events. If anything, it only increases their feelings of accomplishment.

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    2. I would submit that you that an adventure without a plot is not an adventure per se. It's a supplement. If you present a setting that includes a town with a dungeon nearby I would call that a sandbox setting supplement and not an adventure. You can certainly have adventures in that setting, but the actual presentation is not an adventure because nothing is really happening.

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    3. You don't consider Tomb of Horrors an adventure? Come on.

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    4. I don't now and never have. It's a great module don't get me wrong, but really it's just a bunch of interesting rooms cobbled together. What sets that apart from say a tavern full of interesting rooms in the middle of a city? Or the numerous locations in the city itself. You can have adventures in the city just like you can have an adventure in the Tomb but the city itself is not an adventure.

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  18. I was feeling a little bad about tearing into this Alex guy without knowing much about him (well, not really, but it sounds nice to say that) and then I read this recent comment by him:

    "I clearly have a different philosophy in that regard; I personally would not buy, and do not want to release, a product with obvious plot loopholes and inconsistencies."

    Wow, he sounds thoroughly arrogant and self-indulgent. A product that HE had nothing to do with writing, in a genre (Old School gaming) which HE clearly doesn't understand, and HE doesn't want to release it because HE wouldn't buy it? Of course not - HE has no sympathy for the genre. Meanwhile, people have been waiting for this product for an unconscionable length of time already, and they'll continue to wait until this random person - who had NOTHING to do with writing it, and has NO sympathy at all for the genre - turns it into a product that HE would buy?

    A horrible decision by Tavis (?) to put the project in the hands of this arrogant, self-indulgent little prat. I feel truly sorry for the backers (or rather, even sorrier than I already did).

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    1. TSK, you speak of that which you know nothing. I'm the managing director of Autarch, publisher of the product. I'm actually the one who first approached James about writing Dwimmermount for Autarch because I liked reading about it so much. I then negotiated the deal with James (not very much to our benefit either, but so it goes). I'm also, you know, the lead designer of ACKS, which is one of the two games that the dungeon is being written for.

      Tavis ran the Dwimmermount project while I have been working on all the other old-school products we published in the meantime - after ACKS itself, Player's Companion, and Domains at War. I've written 500,000+ words of old school game product in the last 3 years, some of it best-selling and award-nominated. That gives me confidence to think I can finish Dwimmermount. If wanting to do so to the same standards I finished my other products makes me arrogant, then I guess I'm arrogant. But as I use the terms, I don't think a desire to deliver a good product to backers is evidence of either arrogance or self-indulgence, though.

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    2. Aw, now that we're communicating directly I feel kind of bad for tearing into you (for real this time). I still disagree with your reasoning, but I guess I'll offer an apology for getting personal (which wasn't necessary) and wish you luck. You'll need it.

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    3. Thanks, I appreciate it. I will say this: We agree that I need luck.

      :-|

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  19. TheShadowKnows, obviously you're just confused. Alex didn't say anything about imposing a plot on the dungeon a la Hickman. And from what I've seen of his campaigns, that wouldn't be his style. He's making it internally consistent so that player skill can work. If doing things to a dungeons to make it more friendly to uses of player skill isn't OSR, I don't know what is. Nothing I've read since the Kickstarter has led me to believe that events in the megadungeon won't be majority player driven.

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    1. I'm not confused, thank you. I've just seen it all before. "If the Secrets of the City of the Ancients are so amazing, why would a 9HD Dwimmerdragon have stopped the Eld, Thulians, and Termaxians from invading?" is the kind of wearisome, puerile, Comic Book Guy-style query that leads to pages and pages of superfluous backstory and elaborately-contrived "fixes" that prove once and for all that "THE CURE IS WORSE THAN THE DISEASE". As for the rest of it, HE used the words "plot holes"; I'm not putting words in his mouth. If it doesn't have a "plot", how can it have "plot holes"? Or maybe his grasp of the English language is less than precise (making him an even more marvelous choice for writer)?

      The point is, he's doing to Dwimmermount EXACTLY what James always said that he (James) hated: rationalizing and clarifying everything. It's almost like a deliberate thumb jammed in the eye of the original author. Now, I'm by no means a J. Mal partisan, and perhaps he even deserves this kind of treatment after the way he treated the OSR community. That may be. But to me it seems pretty disrespectful and self-indulgent for this joker to hold up the release of an already long-overdue project so he can indulge his personal tastes in direct contradiction to the wishes of the original author.

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    2. I addressed your comment on "plot holes" below.

      I respectfully disagree with you with regard to the nature of the queries I made. They are the sort of queries that came up in actual play of the dungeon. We have a panel of judges who've run Dwimmermount, and the issue of the 9 HD Dwimmerdragon was one that was specifically brought to my attention from actual play, along with how the judge had to change the dungeon to fix it.

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    3. Here is a serious question for you, TSK. James left "the secrets of Turms Termax" section unwritten. It was planned for, but not written.

      If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
      1) Leave it unwritten. "The true secrets of Turms Termax are left for the referee to decide." This isn't delivering the product James intended - we know he did intend to offer the details because he told us so in his draft. This leaves the project more of a DIY kit for the Judge.
      or
      2) Write something. We don't know what James intended. This isn't delivering the product James intended, either - it can't be, because he hadn't decided what he intended. This makes the product more complete out of the box and less DIY.

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    4. I, personally, would probably go with number 1. As you point out, it's a no-win situation and you're not going to please everybody, and DIY is just more Old School in my opinion. As for what I think YOU should do, of course you should do what you think is best. Even if I don't agree with it, it's still your call. As I said before, good luck.

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  20. Wow.

    I backed Dwimmermount at a fairly high level of contribution. My heart goes out to Tavis, who tried to bite the bullet and take this project onto his shoulders when he didn't really have to. I can't blame him for passing the torch on again. I'm sure the money is screwed up; at this point I'd be glad to get the vinyl map and only PDFs of the other books I should get physical copies of.

    Still, if this guy Alex is the one they could find to finish the work, I'm not going to get mad at him for finishing it in his own way. Actually, the idea of elementally-aligned planets instead of Planes is super cool and I like it a lot. I hope they keep that. Elemental planes always struck me as kind of dumb and boring.

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  21. The run of the dungeon doesn't appear (to me, anyway) to have a plot. The dungeon itself has a setting and backstory, and some determination of that is going to impact some of the related products Autarch is on the hook for (eg, the mass-combat backstory scenario).
    Alex, who is also an Autarch employee, is not in any way I can see writing DM fanfic. He's just trying to minimize conflicts in the setting information. If you look at the writing Alex has done about his home campaign, or even the DM guidance in the ACKS Reference book, it's pretty clear he's a preparer (lots of randomly determined and placed material drawing on tables, generic points of interest, etc.), and not what I would call a "story gamer".

    I'm sympathetic to wanting some polish on the product, since it's to be released as an Autarch product (as far as I know).

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  22. Removing contradictions is pretty standard as first editing pass for a first draft. Describing correcting these mistakes as "adding a plot" or removing "what James meant" is odd. Was he able to finish it, I'm sure James would correct some of the mistakes himself.

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  23. It's good to see that the internet still hasn't changed, that there will always be people who get their panties in a bunch without knowing much about the thing they're blowing up about.

    Me, I'm glad that people are still paying attention to this project. I'm still, all things considered, looking forward to the final product, even if I probably won't be using it immediately or directly.

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  24. For those of you who have no idea who I am, you can read my philosophy of gamemastering here. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/checkfortraps

    You could also look at my published corpus of work or large amount of forum posts. I do not think any reasonable gamer could read ACKS, the Player's Companion, or Domains at War, or anything else I've ever written, and describe my work as railroady, story gamey, or Dragonlance-esque in the slightest. I'm on the opposite extreme.

    As for the use of the phrase "plot holes," wow - it's as if I used a swear word on TV. The "plot holes" in question are holes in the plots of the characters presented in the dungeon by James - his draft organized them into competing factions with their own agendas! One faction is described as plotting to use a sleeping god as a weapon of mass destruction. They do not have the key to activate it. That's a hole in their plot, no? Another faction is described as having long monitored Dwimmermount magically, even as in another section Dwimmermount is described as being impossible to magically scry. That's a hole in their plot, no? This goes on and on. If the phrase offends you, feel free to substitute "inconsistencies in the backstory" or simply "inconsistencies in James' material."

    I do not doubt that he would have fixed them eventually. James liked rough edges, there's no doubt -- which is why he provided us a list of things the dungeon would NOT answer, such as the Iron God -- but he wasn't purposefully marring his book. There wasn't some master plan by James where he thought "I will make DM better by having the room descriptions and the faction descriptions be contradictory!" and to think there was is simply absurd. It's one thing to have furniture with rough edges, another to have furniture with table legs that are uneven.

    The example given earlier of Tolkien and the Silmarillion is a good one. When Chris Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay reviewed Tolkien's notes in order to create Silmarillion, they found that the source material was highly inconsistent because Tolkien had said one thing early on and another later on. Before they published it, they took the time to edit it into a single consistent framework. I think that was the right thing to do then, and is the right thing to do now. (And yes, Chris Tolkien later then published the notes/unedited materials; we've been doing the same all along. Anyone who wants to see what James originally wrote has already had access to it!)

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    1. "The "plot holes" in question are holes in the plots of the characters presented in the dungeon by James - his draft organized them into competing factions with their own agendas! One faction is described as plotting to use a sleeping god as a weapon of mass destruction. They do not have the key to activate it. That's a hole in their plot, no?"

      No, it's not a plot hole. It's an unknown. And it leaves room for the DM to improvise.

      "Another faction is described as having long monitored Dwimmermount magically, even as in another section Dwimmermount is described as being impossible to magically scry. That's a hole in their plot, no?"

      Nope, not a plot hole. It means they've been trying, but failing. Maybe they've been seeing untruths and taking it as truths. Or maybe they've just been getting static in their scrying crystals. Again, unanswered questions does not equal plot holes.

      These are NOT inconsistencies. They are open-ended situations where the written text in one section contradicts another section. This means that the relationship between the two pieces of texts is in question, and that the DM must make a decision on how to resolve those contradictions.

      Plot = sequence of events that happen in a certain order to create a coherent narrative story arc. These are not plot holes unless there is a missing sequence of events. And even if they are "inconsistencies" they shouldn't be a problem for a person who has a brain in her head and knows how to use it. Inconsistencies should be viewed as creative constraints that a good DM can work with to keep the players on their toes.

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    2. We are not disagreeing as to whether there are inconsistencies. Because you are saying that "the written text in one section contradicts another section" (to quote you) and I'm agreeing with you. It says A in one section and Not A in another.

      Where we are disagreeing is whether that should be resolved by the writer or left to the DM. You are saying it should be left to the DM. Why?

      Let us imagine two types of DMs:
      1) DIY DM, who is capable of easily modifying a product
      2) Out of the Box DM, who wants to run a product as-is (for whatever reason - time, energy, personal preference)
      DM Type 1 can already do what he wants with Dwimmermount, and can still do whatever he wants with it, regardless of how "fixed" it is.
      DM Type 2 will benefit if the inconsistencies are smoothed over.
      I get that you are a Type 1 DM, for instance. But not everyone is.

      A Type 2 DM prefers Keep on the Borderlands to In Search of the Unknown. But a Type 1 DM can still enjoy Keep on the Borderlands. B2 isn't rendered useless for DIY because Gary filled in the room keys for us and thereby we couldn't be creative with the Caves, is it?

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    3. I guess I'd prefer to get my hands on the unfinished notes, being the DIY, literary purist guy. Filling in the blanks is ultimately going to give the reader de Camp's Conan -- versus exposing that reader to Robert E. Howard's incomplete, untouched drafts and letting him draw his own conclusions.

      Mythology exults in inconsistencies!

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    4. We have been and are making all those available regardless of what is "in the book". So from my perspective, I looked at is offering both the 12-volume Tolkien notes and the Kay-edited Silmarillion, rather than just the Tolkien notes. But maybe people want the notes in the hardbound book format? (Tavis is investigating whether we can do that for those who want it).

      And lest I be accused of arrogance again! I do not claim to be as good an editor as de Camp or Guy Gavriel Kay, I'm merely drawing an analogy.

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    5. Analogy received :)

      If you guys did an alternate "just the notes" in hardback, I'd buy it. FWIW I don't think de Camp or GGK or even Derleth's pastiche-work is necessarily inferior to the primary material they worked with. The central worry/problem, in my mind, is that they got it "wrong" or unconsciously polluted the intentions of the original in their interpretation, so that the end-product is out-of-tune with the inspiration. None of that really matters though so long as the originals exist and are accessible. It's easy to appreciate and enjoy de Camp's pastiche inventions when you can see them side-by-side with Howard's work.

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    6. Greg: we are totally approaching this from different directions, I think. Mythology loves the rough edges, but this is not a mythological adventure. It is a dungeon crawl; not in the mythic underworld, but in a magic-enhanced fortress.

      Also, I have nothing invested in the original creator's specific vision; from my perspective he started this project, then handed it off to others. I have not seen anything he's done that's convinced me that his unique vision is worth loyalty even incomplete. He had a blog with interesting posts, but he left this thing unfinished. I want to see what Autarch will do with it; they've already brought in a lot of things I really like that were not in the original.

      I wanted Dwimmermount because it looked neat, not because of the person who started it. Of course, I was also suckered in by thinking there was a LOT more done, played, tested, and ready to go... So when I see Autarch reducing its sketchy nature and preparing a smoother project, that makes me happy.

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  25. Alex, I'd like to personally thank your for stopping by and commenting. The Tavern can be a noisy and lively (to put it politely) place and I really appreciate you addressing the concerns raised by the readers / commenters / heavily drinking bar patrons ;)

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    1. Thanks! It's a rowdy bar. I'm hoping I don't get beat up too bad and become another Dwimmermount casualty. My hit points are pretty low...

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    2. For what it is worth, Alex, I appreciate the work you are doing and I hope it goes well. Thanks for stopping by!

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    3. http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?716503-OSR-Peeps-DWIMMERMOUNT-Update

      I've started a thread on this topic over on RPGnet, if anyone is interested. It's sadly quiet, I don't know if there were actually a lot of backers other than me.

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  26. This thread is like a perfect OSR snapshot taken by God.

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  27. "Why would the Terrim keep the Sleeping God on hand as a deterrent weapon of mass destruction if its activation is controlled by the Great Machine, which is in the hands of their enemies? "

    That seems like a problem.

    "- Why would the Lawful-aligned Prison which has ensnared Turms Termax be under the control of the Chaotic Sleeping God? "

    Who honestly gives a shit? If the Sleeping God is interesting, a simple handwave will suffice.

    "If Gods such as Typhon are Lawful, why would they create the Eld if doing so would represent a turning away from Law? If they aren't Lawful, what is their relationship to Law and why do they grant Lawful spells?"

    Seriously, why is this important? It doesn't matter! Dwimmermount gods are lawful because they champion order and civilization. The Eld are chaotic because they're fond of devil-magic and have let their civilization degenerate into Melnibonean ruin. This is a non-problem.

    "If the Secrets of the City of the Ancients are so amazing, why would a 9HD Dwimmerdragon have stopped the Eld, Thulians, and Termaxians from invading?"

    Again, does this really matter? I can't imagine that it does. Perhaps older protections existed that have now vanished and the players have no need or easy way of discovering what they were. Perhaps the dragon used to be much more powerful, but has grown old and weary (hence the reduced hit die). It isn't important, and can be explained away with a single sentence.

    All of this is not to say that internal consistency of a dungeon's backstory isn't important - a disjointed backstory can have very real effects on gameplay. However, these types of questions just don't seem like serious issues to me - surely each can be resolved quite quickly. Where ambiguity arises, simply provide a solution, then a note that this solution is only one of many possible solutions. Type 2 DMs can run it as written, Type 1s do as they please, and everyone is made aware that when dealing with the gods or the ancient past, absolute certainty is uncommon.

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