Role-playing reviews

Reviews related to role-playing games, with a focus on Gods & Monsters, and a bit of superhero gaming.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Dungeon 112 (July 2004)

Jerry Stratton, July 11, 2004

Browsing around in the local newsstand last Sunday I noticed Paizo’s Dungeon magazine and Dragon magazine. Browsing through the Dungeon I discovered it was a very special issue: pretty much only two sections. The first section is a reprint of possibly Gary Gygax’s first article about D&D, in a 1974 Wargames Digest. The second section is an early adventure, published for first edition AD&D as Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure, updated for third edition rules.

This is part of the 30th anniversary celebration for Dungeons & Dragons.

Swords and Sorcery: in Wargaming

Fascinating almost for its near-banality, this article attempts to describe what Dungeons & Dragons is like, to wargamers, and then goes into a description of a game that Gary had played in, rather than “judged”.

This was originally printed in the May 1974 Wargames Digest. The original pages are reprinted in a sidebar to show the original formatting. This was a full year before the first issue of The Strategic Review in “Spring 1975”. The Strategic Review continued TSR’s wargaming focus until, in my opinion, the first issue of the second volume in February, 1976. After that, the Dragon was firmly focused on role-playing games, their flagship Dungeons & Dragons in particular.

So this article was well before Gygax, or any other wargamer, realized the extent of the public’s desire for something like Dungeons & Dragons that was completely separate from wargaming. This makes the article historically fascinating if you, like me, find the history of the game interesting.

Maure Castle

There is only one adventure in this issue: Maure Castle, by Robert J. Kuntz and Gary Gygax (with additional material by James Jacobs and Erik Mona). The game that Gygax describes in his 1974 article is part of the history of Maure Castle. It’s an updated version of Robert J. Kuntz’s 1984 Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure—updated by Kuntz—which came from those early games that Kuntz DMed. Kuntz co-authored some of the early D&D books, including the Greyhawk supplement for the original D&D.

This is a high-level adventure (four twelfth-level characters), and a fascinating look at a fascinating place. I don’t want to say too much about the specifics here because it is a classic old-style adventure: lots of cool things for the player characters to push, pull, twist, solve, and stumble over. If you and your players enjoy some of the mid-time Gygax AD&D adventures such as Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, or Kuntz’s original from the same era, you’ll enjoy this adventure.

The artwork is really quite nice, although I wasn’t impressed by the leather-clad World of Darkness reject on the cover. The two-page “widescreen” spread of Maure Castle was sufficiently creepy and moody.

Overall, I quite enjoy this “one adventure” format. The large adventure makes for a great magazine. If they were to perhaps include one ten or twenty page adventure and one sixty to seventy page adventure I could really get into it. Of course, this assumes that they could get similar quality adventures, and that the adventures suited the levels I need. The extra breathing space that this adventure had made a great difference to the level of detail in maps and flavor text.

Updated to reference the original, Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure, thanks to a tip from Rob Kuntz. Also I couldn’t resist updating some of the writing as well.

  1. <- Potato Chips
  2. Dreamlands ->