Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

Recent Reading: Marc W. Miller

  • Double Adventure 1: Shadows & Annic Nova, by Marc W. Miller; copyright © 1980 by Game Designers' Workshop; 7th printing; Product #312. Art on page 19 by Liz Danforth.

    It is interesting to see how these adventures differ from current adventure design. Both of these adventures present a location with details about its contents, and give a way that a group of player characters might get involved. One of the adventures gives a page of historical background of the location for the GM, although the background doesn't directly affect play. The other gives no history at all, other than what can be gleaned from observing the location.

    The trend in commercial RPG adventure design has been to deliver more and more detail for the GM, culminating in the current D&D adventure format that attempts to provide, on a two-page spread, absolutely everything that a DM has to have to run a tactical encounter, from the tactical map to the exact details of each and every NPC involved, so that the DM doesn't have to look anything up. Moreover, in many modules, perhaps starting with the Dragonlance modules in the 1980s, there is a story supplied, which the player characters are expected, more or less, to follow and figure out, and some more-or-less obvious goal.

    Shadows & Annic Nova certainly don't supply a pre-built story — any story will be generated by the referee and players at the gaming table, with possibly some pre-game activity by the referee while reading the adventure beforehand. And there are no obvious goals, just situations to explore.

    I actually find this rather liberating, compared to the more detailed adventures that are more common today. There is something about the things that aren't there in Shadows & Annic Nova that fires up my imagination and draws me into the situation. It's probably the same sort of thing that makes me see the original Greyhawk folio as more interesting that the later Living Greyhawk Gazetteer.

    I mention Liz Danforth in the info about the book above because ever since I ran across her art in 5th edition Tunnels & Trolls I've enjoyed it immensely.

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