Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Looking Back Through a City in a Bottle

James Maliszewski has posted his promised review of Rob Kuntz's The Original Bottle City. More interesting than the rather extensive review itself is the peek it gives us into the style of play that gave rise to such classic locals. Mr. Kuntz apparently includes lots of parenthetical information on the design and play of the Bottle City, and Mr. Maliszewski takes that as an opportunity to expound on "old school" gaming. For instance:

The same principle applies to the map of the level itself, which includes many, many rooms that are not keyed. This was a common practice back in the day, both to allow the referee flexibility in adding new encounters on the fly and because old school dungeons were "alive," which is to say, they changed between adventures. Far from being static, isolated collections of rooms with monsters that didn't interact with one another or that served no purpose other than to wait for adventurers to enter them, old school dungeons were living, breathing ecologies, albeit fantastical ones. There was in fact a rhyme and reason to their internal workings and the presence of empty rooms helped facilitate them.

This isn't just James blowing rose-colored nostalgia-smoke. In the original DMG (pp. 104-105 to be exact), Gygax makes the same point and provides examples of how monsters (in the case cited, orcs) might react to an attack by PCs:

The orcs might have a warning device (a drum, horn, gong, bell, etc.) aviailabe for use by the guards posted at the entrance to their lair. The larger the number of orcs, the greater the chance that such a device will be on hand. As soon as the attack occurs, one or two orcs will rush to inform the group that they are under attack, assuming that opportunity allows. Response to the attack will be disorganized, wave attacks being likely, with the nearest orcs coming first, and the leaders (most likely to be at the rear of the complex) coming up near the last. Some traps might be set along the complex entry. Resistance will stiffen as the leaders (and ogres, if any) come up. When the party retires, there is a fair chance of pursuit - a general harassment by the boldest fighters amongst the orcs.

Later, when the PCs return after resting, healing, and preparing to take on the orcs once more:

There is not much chance that the chaotic orcs will have sent for reinforcements, although some few losses might have been replaced by returning group members. Any damage or destruction in the cave complex will have been repaired. There is a great likelihood that more guards will be on duty and some warning device ready to alerth the group, as discipline will be attempted because of the attack. Response to the attack will be more immediate and leaders and the spellcasters will be ready to fight. (If the party camped too near the orcs during the intervening week, there is a chance that the orcs might have located and raided the place!)

For a more detailed example, check out the adventure diary of Philotomy DMing B4 - The Lost City.

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