I’m kinda over dungeon crawling in RPGs. I mean, I’m fine with it in video games; not exactly inventive, but still potentially exciting. And I do loves me some dedicated tabletop dungeon delvers; I have so many hours dumped into Gloomhaven that I need to force myself to play other games because I own a whole bunch of ones that are much too awesome to just gather dust. But dungeon-crawling in something like, say, D&D just kinda bores me. Meticulously mapping shit out on graph paper, plodding through each room carefully looking for traps and clues, the tedious slog of monsters jumping out and fighting you … blech. I’m seriously over it.
Therefore, a 200+ page supplement devoted to dungeoneering in an RPG I don’t even play has no prayer of a good review, right? A dismissive “meh” is the absolutely ceiling of what you should expect from me here, yes?
Page 5, Game 4: Ironsworn: Delve by Shawn Tomkin
Delve is a very detailed set of rules for creating dungeon-esque environments on the fly, WITHOUT getting bogged in the tedious minutiae of mapping a never-ending series of 10′ x 10′ corridors. It splits the difference between that and total free-form storytelling games, providing templates for everything you’d want for your adventure site. Where is it located? How hard is going to be to get through? What’s going to stand in your way? What nasty shit will you encounter once you finally get there?
Most of this is presented in the form of look-up dice charts, but in the hybrid spirit of the game, you’re admonished to not be a slave to the dice. Did the dice roll indicate you encounter something stupid and nonsensical? Then just ignore that shit. Maybe flip the dice; maybe a result of 85 (“Camp or Outpost”) makes no goddamn sense for the desolate hellwoods you’ve described, but a result of 58 (“Waterway”) actually fits in. Or do the results one line higher or lower seem particularly cool and you wish you’d rolled one of them? Then just do that, bro.
Honestly? I’m intrigued.
Free-form storytelling RPGs can be a lot of fun, but they always feel a bit flimsy to me; the fact that the table is just making the shit up on the fly can produce a cool narrative, but at the cost of a sense of accomplishment. The more structure a game has, the more viscerally satisfying your victories are. Gronk the Dwarf didn’t wrestle that bear to the ground because somebody at the table thought it would be hilarious; he wrestled it to the ground because Gronk’s player was a bit desperate and landed some KILLER dice rolls. Yeah, you show that cave-grizzly who’s BOSS, you majestic bearded bastard!
But the price of that structure comes form narrative flexibility. The GM has to put in a LOT of work ahead of time, which can be daunting and stressful. Adventures can feel samey and repetitive. The options available to the players can feel tightly constrained. You can only walk down so many 10′ wide, 10′ high stone corridors before coming down with a case of FuckThisItus. A more freeform game doesn’t have as strong a potential for walking away feeling like you just did something AWESOME, but it can allow for a lot more creativity.
Delve is clearly shooting for a middle ground allowing for both creativity AND structure. How well does it achieve this? Fuck if I know, I just kinda skimmed the 200+ pages of rulebook. But I’d be very, very interested to find out.
Based on the rules in this book, Ironsworn is clearly inspired by Apocalypse World, but is apparently its own system. Digging a bit more, it would seem that the base Ironsworn rulebook is available as a free download, and pulls decent online reviews.
When the dread specter of pestilence has at last been purged from these lands, I might consider organizing a group to play it.
This supplement makes me want to give its parent ruleset a try.
That’s a pretty damn good supplement.
All right, let’s cue-up another one:
Page 49, Game 8: Vegetables Deluxe C64 by MikeRichmond
“A Match 3 Game for PAL/NTSC Commodore 64 machines and emulators”
Hmm. I don’t like Bejeweled, and I hate vegetables. But I DO have some hard-core nostalgia going for C64 machines. Let’s have a look.