A couple days ago, Eldrad Wolfsbane over at Back to the Dungeon blogged about those gamers who think dungeons suck. Not the troll who thinks YOUR dungeon sucks, just gamers, like my buddy Alex in the Board Game Group, who dislike the dungeon as a setting for adventures and dismiss the genre as simple and lacking in RP elements.
Bear with me, folks. His post is a couple days old, but it's been on my mind since I read it the other day. It's been a busy 3-day weekend (so no post since last Saturday's rundown of the Gamma World Game). We were busy taking our son to the beach, a picnic, the beach again... Thanks, Japan, for surrendering to the U.S. on what was a Monday this year, instead of a Sunday! Not so good for blogging, good for the family. But I digress. Majorly. Back to dungeons.
So Eldrad gives some good advice for spicing up dungeons and making them feel like living places, where you can roleplay to your heart's content. Still, though, I get the feeling that those gamers he decries, who sniff at the very thought of entering a dungeon, wouldn't give it a chance. Or they'd be pretty hard to convince, at least. I've blogged about the phenomenon before.
I really don't see a dungeon adventure, let alone an entire dungeon campaign set in a megadungeon, as any less worthy of providing role play opportunities than a city campaign, or a grand save the world quest (cue Tolkien/Brooks/Eddings/Jordan/Goodkind reference here). It's got the same opportunities for RP as an urban cyberpunk game. As a space opera. As a stone age survival game. As a 20's/30's gangster game. As any other genre.
Because that's the point. It's its own distinct genre, but it's not that different from the games the 'dungeon haters' want to play. A dungeon game supposes certain forces will motivate the PCs. Exploration, treasure finding, and monster slaying.
What does a grand quest to recover the McGuffin of Pelor, in order to slay the evil overlord Drolrevo suppose? Exploration, treasure finding, monster slaying.
What does a city campaign of rival factions and backhanded politics involve? Exploration (social often more than geographical, but exploration no less), treasure finding (maybe not gold, but secrets or alliances are a form of treasure), and monster slaying (come on, this is an RPG...are you really gonna let the evil mastermind behind the grand plot to steal the city's chamber pots walk?).
Yeah, a lot of us, when we were young and inexperienced, just drew rooms, populated them randomly with monsters and treasure, then let our friends wander aimlessly until they had filled their bags or exhausted their spells and hit points, fighting any old monsters they came across. But most of us, especially those of us in the OSR who've been doing it for a long time (or are newer but have the wealth of knowledge provided by the OSR blogs/forums/wikis) aren't doing it like that any more.
We're also not creating dungeons the way the old TSR modules were created, for the most part. I know I'm spending a lot of time working on special treasures that would be worthy of searching for, special monsters that would make one legendary to slay, and also populating the dungeon with factions that aren't always hostile to the PCs. They can be bargained with, fooled, allied with, double crossed before they double cross you, ignored, or even helped. I'm trying to come up with trap and "special" encounters that will lead to role playing, not just problem solving. I'm trying to make my megadungeon a cool place where fun things can happen, and players don't just need to kick in doors and roll initiative.
Too bad those anti-dungeon players will probably never give it a chance. Oh well, their loss.