I gotta say it’s really weird reading other peoples’ reviews of Dwimmermount. I mean beyond the obvious difference that everyone else was writing directly to other game masters… it’s just strange seeing what ended up meriting comment and what didn’t. In effect, it’s like I’m gaslighting myself. Did I really see what I thought I saw…?
So what did I see…? For starters, a fitting tribute to A. Merritt. More than half a dozen solid chances to do-over the sort of faction oriented play that novice DM’s failed to grasp when they ran B2. More than a few puzzle objects that are worthy of the likes of Infocom. Fully statted domains with complete ACKS data for miniatures battles. And a cogent, playable synthesis of pre-eighties fantasy integrated with the tropes of classic D&D.
Anyway, here’s a rundown of what everyone else saw.
Dungeon of Signs: “Dwimmermount’s sensibilities are very classic dungeons and dragons and it aims to evoke a swords and sorcery world rather than the watered down Tolkien pastiche known as vanilla fantasy.”
OSR News and Reviews: “Many megadungeons are content to have a line or so of description for each room, or perhaps even leave dozens of rooms blank, even whole levels. But Dwimmermount doesn’t cheap out, each room is described in at least a paragraph. Oh sure, a few rooms are empty, which only takes a sentence or two, but even those get a description beyond ‘Empty room’.”
Paul’s Blog: “The fact is, you can’t package the magic of the shared history among DM and players. You can package up all the output of this communal creative process, but expecting an outsider to be able to pick that up and have the same experiences you did is laughable. And yet, it seems that’s exactly what is being attempted here.”
tenfootpole.org:”Most levels have suck-ass wandering tables. Just a list of wanderers on the level. Kobolds, rats, orcs, spiders, centipedes, fire beetles, slime, and … NPC Party! This is mostly a lost opportunity to add flavor. I like my wanderers to be doing something rather than just be random sword fodder. I’m happy to see an NPC party on the table; those always add a lot of fun to a big dungeon. Basically I want something to add some flavor and not just be another generic monster fight.”
GENE SHALIT’S CRAZY MOUSTACHE WEEKEND GAMING REVIEW!:”When first JaMal conceived of Dwimmermount as a means to re-imagine and explore the way games were played during the early days of D&D, he looked to Gary Gygax and his Lake Geneva campaign, better known as Castle Greyhawk for inspiration. But unlike Gary who made his megadungeon out of a practical need, Jimmy would craft his Dwimmermount as a way to play in a specific style. His style assumed a very sterile environment that was not based around such a practical need but placed a strong emphasis on looking backwards that had little basis in fact that soon became a liability, as the early peeks into Dwimmermount produced little substance or enthusiasm. It’s probably why after he got the Kickstarter campaign funded that the whole project got away from him and proved so elusive to put on paper. There just isn’t much to Dwimmermount and most of that early style of gaming can be done by just rolling some percentile dice while consulting the random dungeon generator in the back of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide over a long weekend….”
The Drunk Umberhulk: “If you have an itch for an epic mega-adventure, Dwimmermount will not steer you wrong. It’s a lot of material and is a steal at $10 on RPGnow.com for the .pdf. Five beer steins out of five!”
Your Dungeon is Suck: “Go ahead, explore, tell me if you like what you find in there. Ooooh spiders hiding in webs in the ceiling, that’s original! Kobolds, awesome. Magic water that doesn’t do anything. Skeletons. Doors that don’t open. And empty room after empty room.”
Crowbar And Brick: “It is a font of ideas – not only setting ideas, but presentation and preparatory ideas, not only for someone who would want to create their own dungeon, but for someone just setting up a sandbox environment, and wanting some structure to hang hexes up on.”
Tavis Allison answers criticism about the dungeon being hard wired to a setting people may not want to play in:
“The reason the setting details revealed on the lower levels of the dungeon are important is that, as some reviews have pointed out, the original Dwimmermount campaign was focused on exploration and discovery. This sense of amassing knowledge and uncovering secrets is key to maintaining interest over the long term in megadungeon play. Simply mastering the layout of the dungeon provides some of this fuel – it gave my Thracia players great pleasure when they figured out how to reach an area they had observed through an upper shaft – but Dwimmermount goes further by establishing deep questions about the setting that players can discover through exploration, like ‘where do gods come from?’
“To get the benefit of this conceptual exploration, it’s not necessary to use the specific details the book provides. The key design feature is the way the dungeon is structured to make unraveling secrets a central activity of play. If a mystery like the origin of demihuman species doesn’t make sense for your setting, you could swap it out for another that does. Using the dungeon’s system for rewarding characters for discovering pieces of the mystery would make it easy to see where you’d want to place your own pieces of the puzzle.”