And they come with no warning,
nature loves her little surprises.
Continual crisis!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dungeon Crawl

I'm reading Jim Hines' Goblin Quest and having a good time. I met Jim at Confusion last year after hearing about his books. So when I was looking for something to round out an Amazon Order to get free shipping, I went to my wish list and pulled out his book. Through a coincidence of when I was out of reading, packed for installation of the bookshelves and shipping, Jim's book was vaulted to the top of my reading list.

The cover was what did if for me. one of the few things my brother introduced me to that I enjoyed was Dungeons and Dragons (well, AD&D by the time I got to it). With one quest I was (somehow) playing a goblin thief character I played to the hilt and enjoyed greatly. He even ended up talking a dragon out of some treasure ("As I am but a meek goblin, that wouldn't even be an appetizer for you, oh great wyrm"). Not an easy thing to do, but if Bilbo could get away with it, so could my goblin. When I saw the DAW Cover of Goblin Quest I instantly remembered that whole quest and giggled as I looked at it (which is how it ended up on my Amazon Wish List).

I've only read a few dungeon crawl books before (the Dragon Lance series, hey, I was 16) and the most recent, R.A. Salvator's One Thousand Orcs (or something like that) really turned me off to them. I mean, eveyrbody now has to play their wizard like Fizz (wiggle whatshisname) from Dragon Lance; slightly dotty, powerful, and distant from reality and consequences (when in fact, that character wasn't any of the previous). In Orcs I could hear the dice tumbling and see the DM flipping pages through their notebook and the characters referencing their Player's Manuals. And the main character really never seemed to be in any real danger (as we would say, he's monty hauling it).

So Jim's book is welcome. I'm only about a fourth of the way through and I'm enjoying it greatly (thanks, Jim). Sure, it's based on your typical dungeon crawl adventure, and some characters (at least so far) are stock players, but he does it really well. the characters have motivations beyond the "wack monsters for loot" kind.

Has anybody else been reading dungeon crawls, and do they do more than give you the feeling of dice rolling and rule checking? I've thought about writing some as some point (in fact, I discovered a notebook from many ages ago with notes for one, it was clear I didn't know WTF I was doing at the time, this was probably from when I was in my mid-twenties, maybe late teens). My experience, except from Jim's book, hasn't been one of positive goal setting material, so I was wondering if anybody has seen other examples.


Unknown said...

I read the "Zork" series as a youth. It was a choose your own adventure style book based on a game. That is as close as I have come to a dungeon crawl book. I love those stories, but they are special effects tales to me more than actual stories usually. Even LOTR breaks down for me to more specticle than story.

My brother got me into AD&D as a youth too. His constant words to me were "sorry, I took your character out yesterday and he got killed. I kept all the gold though. You need to make a new one."

ThatGreenyFlower said...

the characters have motivations beyond the "wack monsters for loot" kind

Does ANYONE have motivation beyond the "whack-monsters-for-loot" kind? I know I don't...

Leaf, Branch, Bark & Root said...

You may want to give Carolyn Cushman's 'Witch and Wombat' a try - it's a clever/snide look at computer gamers, theme parks, etc etc. If your public library doesn't have it, Amazon has 47 of them starting at a penny + S&H, so it's not difficult to find (paperback only).

Steve Buchheit said...

Greeny, you crack me up. Yeah, sometimes I wonder just how much gold I'd get to wacking the people who stand blocking the escalator exit area. They're probably only half-hit-dice creatures, so I should be able to get two or three attacks every round. But they probably only carry a few copper pieces.

Now, those people who insist on driving 35mph in a 55mph (well, we normally are crusing at 60) zone, and I have fantasies of launching my forward missiles at them (serious itchy trigger finger these past few days), since they're driving nice cars I would hope to get good bling for them.

Leaf, I'll need to check that out, thanks.

Steve Buchheit said...

Kanrei, yeah I was also thinking about those, "You Choose the Adventure" books as well. I never really liked them (including the ones where you had the highlighter to show what happened). That sucks (what your brother did). I think I'd intentionally start collecting cursed items.

I once had a character that did have a cursed sword (-1). His dexterity more than made up for it. I used to get a charge out of selling the thing to not very cluefully merchants who could tell it was magic, but not what type (I think a part of the curse also aided this). Go buy a regular sword then pick a fight and "womp" the cursed sword would appear in the character's hand (that's the cursed part). It was good for buying much needed supplies with the extra gold.

Camille Alexa said...

Both Goblin Hero and Goblin Quest got good reviews in The Green Man Review.

Steve Buchheit said...

Camille, that's excellent. It should. I'm about halfway and I've already decided to buy the other books. I'm really liking Jig (the main character). Although Jim's voice has changed a little in the middle (it has more wonder and less sarcasm, I think a goblin needs his sarcasm).