Monday, 22 December 2008

Weekend Thoughts - Tentpole Dungeons and The Changing Face of the Future

I'll continue the alignment rundown tomorrow, but I just wanted to jot down some thoughts I had over the weekend, while alternately hungover in bed or on the train to and from London. The first relates to what Greyhawk Grognard refers to as Old School Campaign Tent Poles - that is, megadungeons which function as tentpole adventuring locales for a campaign:

Adventurers are free [he writes] to delve into its mouldy depths if they choose, but they're just as free to poke around in the local town or city, hie off into the wilderness, or explore smaller dungeons that the DM should properly have waiting for those eager for a change of pace.

But what I think is important is that the tent-pole dungeon is there, for those days when the PCs weary of tracking down clues and following whatever plots they have been pursuing throughout the campaign. The tent-pole should, I think, be a sort of refuge from such things, existing in the world but not of it, a place where the PCs can set aside their plot-induced cares and just go someplace, kill things, and take their stuff.

This sort of thing is enough to get the pulse of any DM (or player, really) racing: doesn't it just make you want to get up right now, grab some graph paper and a pen and start mapping?

James Maliszewski writes that "2e was an era that moved away from tent pole megadungeons as a principle of setting design" and I agree with him, but I also agree that "most of the 2e settings could be retooled to support a tent pole megadungeon" - which sounds like a task I'd like to work on someday, specifically for my favourite setting of Planescape. Indeed it strikes me that Planescape is one of the more obvious megadungeon-friendly 2e settings; not only do you have the Mazes, Sewers and Hive in Sigil, you also have the 16 gate towns in the Outlands (each of which could have a uniquely flavoured megadungeon under its foundations), the Spire (with an infinite pit at its foundation?) and an endless multiverse in which to plonk down whatever you like. You could even envisage entire Planes as megadungeons - what else is the Abyss, after all, but an infinite labyrinth full of monsters, death and treasure? Ditto Pandemonium.


My second thoughts for the weekend related to Cyberpunk 2020 and alternate visions of the future. Some time ago I was thinking about this in very vague terms, and actually wrote a post about it - as well as starting off an interesting (for once) thread. At that time, I was thinking in terms of what was realistic - i.e. what we might reasonably expect the future to be like from our current standpoint, as opposed to that of the 1980s. But I recently read Pashazade, a book by John Courtenay Grimwood, which had been sitting on my shelf for years. It is the first part of the Arabesk Trilogy, and is set in an alternate future (rather than alternate past), where WWI never got off the ground and the Ottoman Empire still exists. The action centres around Alexandria (El Iskandriyah) in the mid 21st century, and the setting is like a William Gibson novel but with North African Islam as its backdrop rather than LA or Japan. The book isn't great, but the setting is, and it got me thinking about non-European and non-Japanese cyberpunk futures. India, Brazil, Russia and China are obvious candidates for future Megapowers, and near-future games set in worlds dominated by one or the other (or all) would just be fantastic to create and play games with.

Once again I regret there isn't enough time to do all of these potential projects and keep abreast of work and a social life. How unfair that we don't have a few extra hours each day.

No comments:

Post a Comment