Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Dwimmer-Campaign Game 3

Third installment of the player's exploration of the legendary Dwimmermount.

Game 3 started with a few new drop-in players joining for the night as we played at a neighbor's house.  The players started at the Muntburg tavern, the Flask and Scroll, and discussed their next delve while peering at the map.  Mook 3 (who left their service at the end of last game) had been spreading horrible rumors about Dwimmermount in the intervening time - full of monstrous spiders, death, and beastmen - and word was starting to get out of Muntburg that the dungeon held dangers and treasures.  "I knew we should have knocked off that mook in the dungeon", complained Marthanes' player, as they considered options.  "By the way, new guys, what kind of characters are you, and what do you do?"

"I'm a paladin!" declared Priscus.  "Surely you were kidding about that last comment, murdering your poor ex-retainer?"  Marthanes' player, who nearly spit out his chips, glared across the table - "Seriously, you had to pick a paladin, dude?  So much for my reign of chaos - I guess we're  going to have to act "lawful" from now on".  Meanwhile, the other new player was Parquas, an elf nightblade (a magic user\thief).

The characters for this session:
Marthanes, an exotic sorcerer (mage) from the sultry south
Malgrim, a fighter
Priscus, a paladin
Parquas the Duelist, an elf nightblade
Plus two henchmen - Wolfengard, a dwarf fighter, and Father Tancrede, a priest of Typhon

The Great Porfirio, the finest alchemist of the majestic city of Adamas, had come to Muntberg with his entourage as soon as he heard the dungeon was open, to hire adventurers to retrieve rare reagents for him from the dungeon.  "Texts from the time of the Termaxians identify a 'moon pool' right on the first level of Dwimmermount where the mages of the old empire recovered 'True Water'", declared Porfirio.  "I will pay handsomely if you can discover the truth of whether such a pool exists, and even more if you're able to retrieve some True Water.  Of course, if you don't want the job, I can hire those other guys, the Five Delvers…"

I'll talk about this more during a formal review, but there's a neat tool called the Dwimmermount Dungeon Tracker over at RPGNow; each level has a table of 1d6 interesting quests on the tracker - exactly the type of thing I've done for my home brew megadungeons.  Porfirio is the embellished result of a quest... 

The players bought some empty flasks, but when they went to the bond-house to see if there were any mercenaries looking for work, they learned that all of them were recently hired away by a new party, the Five Delvers.  "That's it, we're going to find these guys and have a talk with them - we'll double the pay and hire the mooks away!"

The Five Delvers are a newly formed adventuring party preparing for their own first trip to the dungeon.  The recently hired mercenaries were outside the cottage laying out gear and sharpening weapons.  Priscus started making an offer to the mercenaries about coming to work for the Muntburg Broncos (the spontaneous name the players just picked for themselves) when Asceline, the lithe and attractive leader of the Delvers, burst out and declared that no one was hiring away her mercenaries.

After sizing up Priscus, she looped her arm in his and walked him down the street to 'work out an arrangement'.  She agreed to letting the party hire away a couple of mercenaries by doubling their pay (as long as she could pocket the difference) and all the while was trying to use her pick pockets skill to rifle through Priscus's belt pouch.  "What do you need the empty flasks for, did you find something like a pool?"  Priscus realized what she was doing and pushed her away.  "We're going to find that Moon Pool for the alchemist", he declared.  "Not if the Delvers find it first!" she retorted.  The players picked two of the mercenaries to change teams, and they headed back to the inn to get ready.

Despite an hour planning to find the moon pool, what they really did when they got to the dungeon was go to a vault with a locked iron door, to test out the "rod of opening".  The door creaked open and then slammed against the wall with a deafening clang.  The vault groaned with an inward rush of air, and a cold chill of undeath washed over the party.  A hollow voice called out, "This treasure is mine.  Mine!  You shall not have it…" and rising from the floor was the gruesome shape of a wight!  (The players didn't know it was a wight, but I described it in such scary detail that the two youngest kids were quaking in their very chairs!)

The party had loaded up on holy water last week, so they immediately started pulling out vials and tossing them at the undead horror, with its life-draining talons reaching for their necks.  Meanwhile, the elf nightblade, using acrobatics, stealth, and the skulking proficiency, had skirted around the vault to the backside of the treasure pile and was creeping up on the wight from behind.  Once he realized it was a nasty undead, he figured his regular sword wouldn't damage it, so he scanned his eyes over the treasure pile, figuring there was a fair chance for a magic item.  The hilt of a sword stuck out of the pile!  Hoping that it was magical, he withdrew the sword and attempted to backstab the wight once it moved forward to claw at the front rank of characters.  It was indeed an enchanted blade, and the thief ended up doing close to 20 damage on the backstab, splitting the wight's skull from the rear.

The mercenaries stood watch while the players sorted and catalogued the wight's large treasure pile, and packed it into sacks for transport.  It was so much that they aborted the rest of the delve to haul the loot back to Muntburg right away, heavily laden with bursting sacks and full backpacks.  There was no keeping a low profile now; word spread from the corporal of the watch that the adventurers had returned with a load of treasure, and the players were barraged with offers from merchants and people in town plying wares and services.  They spent the rest of the night negotiating the purchase of a stone cottage in the outer bailey to use as headquarters, and a bunch of large chests, locks, and some trained war dogs to help with security of their new headquarters.  They even talked to the captain of the guard about keeping a closer watch on their house.  Success has come quickly for the Muntburg Broncos!

My neighbor's wife came home early from shopping and declared it 'time for kids to hit the sack', so we packed up.  His kiddo seemed to enjoy D&D so we'll see if we can get them in another game in a week or so.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Dwimmermount as Axis Mundi

This is the second article where I look at the 400+ page megadungeon  Dwimmermount, created by James Maiszewski, and developed and published by Autarch.  Part I:  Dwimmermount as Old School Tribute.

The Axis Mundi is the center of the world, the connection point between the numinous realms and the world of man.  Many myth systems include these places in their cosmogonies; consider mythic locales like Mount Olympus, or the Norse Yggdrasil, as Axis Mundi.  What's interesting as I reflect on Dwimmermount is that the dungeon itself is the Axis Mundi for the entire campaign world!

Dwimmermount is the place the ancients came to earth from across space and time, and created their first empire deep beneath the mountain.  From that seminal moment, every major shift in the campaign setting can be tied back to actions that either started or ended with a change in rulership of the mountain, and corresponding changes to the geography and architecture of the dungeon.  Telluria, the world of Dwimmemount, has seen the ascent of the gods, invasions from other planets, the rise and fall of empires, and a fractured period where competing city-states vie for power - all originating or ending with the dungeon.  Secrets related to each of the major ages lie buried throughout.  A trip through Dwimmermount is an archaeological journey through the history of Telluria.

Dwimmermount is inexorably tied to quintessence, and a substance called "Azoth", liquid quintessence, which can be used as a powerful reagent and source of magic power.  When the dungeon reopens at the beginning of a Dwimmermount campaign, it immediately becomes the most important place on the planet, regardless of how quickly the local polities become involved. The nature of the secrets buried (and imprisoned) in Dwimmermount represent an existential threat to every nearby locale and city.  Whatever comes next, as history unfolds on your version of Telluria, will be inexorably tied to what happens with your players in the dungeon and the choices you make as DM regarding the powerful resources there.

Dwimmermount as Axis Mundi puts the dungeon in a much different posture than an archetypal lair or forgotten ruin, where treasure alone is the primary aim, and pillaging the dungeon isn't going to imbalance the campaign world or bring nations to war.  Mastery of the dungeon of Dwimmermount represents power over the campaign and knowledge of campaign-altering secrets and truths.  I've read quite a few megadungeons through the years, and very few of them take this extreme approach of making the dungeon the actual secret history of the world.  Of course, if you expect the major activity of the campaign to be exploring a sprawling "tent pole" dungeon, it makes sense that the dungeon should affect the rise and fall of empires and the historical ages of man.

However, this posture of Dwimmermount brings with it a corresponding set of problems.  The history of the dungeon is so intertwined with the history of the world of Telluria, there's definitely additional burdens placed on the referee who would retrofit Dwimmermount into another campaign world.  Portability is not a strength. Telluria has specific positions on weighty campaign questions such as alignment, the nature of the gods, the astral plane, the origins of elves and dwarves, and the sources of magic.  I happen to really like Dwimmermount's answers, but the campaign supports a particular flavor of pulp fantasy that incorporates elements of science fantasy as the campaign proceeds.

Perhaps a larger problem is that the wider world of Telluria doesn't exist… the referee is left to come up with his own interpretation.  The environs of Dwimmermount are described through an area hex map (a regional map) which covers a few nearby settlements and cities, but many of the principal non-player actors hail from far off empires and distant lands.  If the campaign stays laser focused on the dungeon and nearby city, there's probably enough there, but it's likely you'll need to take a broader view of the world and consider sketching a continent map that shows geographic and political relationships.  A Dwimmermount campaign could easily see armies on the move as the deepest levels of the dungeon get breached by players.

Folks have recommended Blackmarsh as a setting to retrofit for Dwimmermount, and I also saw someone place their version in Mystara.  I've grabbed a free copy of Blackmarsh from RPG Now to take a look.  The Wilderlands of High Fantasy (a 1970's setting from Judge's Guild) could be a good fit as well.

I've tried to stay light on specific spoilers here, assuming that both referees and players could be readers.  I'm greatly enjoying Dwimmermount (and have run 4 sessions already with my players) but did want to warn those who follow what to expect.  I'll probably end up sketching my own version of Telluria in the very near future.

Dwimmermount offers the chance for players to care about the ancient history of the campaign world, and rewards an approach that values knowledge - I think that's the next topic to discuss as we build towards a full review.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dwimmer-Campaign Game 2

Second installment of my player's exploration of Dwimmermount.

The characters stayed in town a few weeks to give Grimson time to heal his grievous head injury from last game session.   Obsidian's player missed the game, so the other players hired a few mercenaries in Muntburg to round out the crew.  They promptly renamed the mercenaries mook 1, mook 2, and mook 3.  They tried to keep a low profile about their initial success in Dwimmermount, and also bought a bunch of new supplies - better armor for Malgrim, 6 vials of holy water, and a few silver daggers.  Marthanes used his proficiency (magical engineering) to identify that the rod from last session was a rod of opening, and the scarab was a deadly cursed item.  Since kids are chaotic by nature, they immediately started scheming how they might sell the scarab as a fake magic item and then retrieve it after it killed its new owner, so they could pass it on to another victim.  Luckily they got distracted by the dungeon before carrying out this particular plan…

The characters for this session:
Marthanes, an exotic sorcerer (mage) from the sultry south
Grimson, the world's first dreadlocked kilted barbarian
Plus two henchmen - Malgrim, an ex-legionnaire from Adamas, and Father Tancrede, a priest of Typhon, and 3 mercenaries

Back at the dungeon, the first thing they did was to replace the head of a god statue.  In one of the treasure rooms last week, the players recovered the head of a statue of Tyche, but were in too much of a rush getting out of the dungeon to mess with it last time.  They lugged it back to Muntburg, where it sat next to the bed for a week.  Now they hauled it back to the dungeon, and fitted it to Tyche's statue where it sealed itself to the torso -  and then the characters were filled with the blessing of Tyche, a divine boon.

They used their map of the level to find a library to loot, discovering various books and a manual of warfare.  They wandered off to another room where they parlayed with a handful of orcs; the war-masks from last session (which clip on to helmets like demon-faced samurai masks) improved the reaction rolls and they gained some intelligence on the nearby area from the rocs, learning about kobolds and a nearby 'kobold chieftain' in an area where the orcs wanted to expand.  The players just needed to hear "kobold lord" and it was clobberin' time - off to mug some kobolds.

The orc's directions led them beyond the finished dungeon into the cave network in the south of the level.  The kobold "chieftain" was actually a vile dwarf, sitting on a crude throne with a large spider minion perched on the back of the throne, with a gang of kobolds.  Devoid of tactics, the players charged in!

Grimson went first, roaring a challenge and leaping forward to attack the evil dwarf.  A massive swing took off half the leader's hit points.  Unfortunately, the giant crab spider went next, jumping onto Grimson, biting and poisoning him, and Grimson died (after writhing on the ground a while).

Marthanes had summoned his berserkers for this fight, and the combination of berserkers and mooks quickly sliced through the kobolds once the berserkers got into the fray.  The other characters finished off the dwarf and the spider, and tended to Grimson after the fight, but he was too far gone to save.

Knowing they had a little bit of time left with the summoned berserkers, the party quickly left the chieftain's room and looked for another fight.  They found a room full of spiders, and lost the remaining berserkers and two of the mooks dealing with the group of giant crab spiders.  There was a dank tunnel leading down out of the spider room, and they heard a faint telepathic voice calling out to them, "I'm down here mortals, tasty mortals, waiting in the dark for you.  Come to me…. Come to me… "  They quickly retreated.

The party doubled back to the chieftain's room, looted the dwarf and the kobold treasure (which consisted of 6,000 coppers and a few dwarven magic items) and headed out of the dungeon, sad to lose Grimson the barbarian.  Furthermore, despondent at seeing mook 1 and mook 2 die in the dungeon, mook 3 left the player's employment when they got back to Muntburg.

This ended the session, and began the list of casualties:

Dwimmermount Dead:
Grimson, the dreadlocked barbarian (killed by a giant crab spider)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dwimmer-Campaign Starts - First Session

Here we go, game session 1 - Dwimmermount using ACKS.  I have a few basic goals for the campaign - I want to run a simple (old school) game, feature a flexible cast of players from the neighborhood, keep the sessions short so they can be scheduled ad hoc, and keep the amount of prep fairly low so I can still run it when work and school start up again in a few weeks.

We started with the players at the gates of Dwimmermount, standing before the large red doors into the dungeon, making last minute preparations, before trying to push the doors open to see if the rumors of the dungeon being unlocked are true.  We used a large sheaf of pre-made characters and handy background sheets on "what everyone knows about Dwimmermount" to accelerate the action.  I try to minimize exposition during table time, especially for a first session.  Players come to rumble, not to listen to long background monologues!

The characters:
Marthanes, an exotic sorcerer (mage) from the sultry south
Grimson, my world's first dreadlocked kilted barbarian
Obsidian, a thief
-Plus a few henchmen - Malgrim and Mulan, two ex-legionnaires from the city of Adamas, and Father Tancrede, a cleric of Typhon

They descended into the first room, inspected a few statues of the gods with mismatched heads, and Grimson knocked off the misplaced heads of Turms Termax before they moved out.  In one of the first rooms, they found a party of dead dwarfs (turned to stone) and pieced together that one of them had a leather case depicting a full map of dungeon level 1!  (The secret they used was to treat it like an etching or rubbing with some charcoal).  Armed with a full map of the level, the players have been very tactical about where they go looking for treasure.

They found one room with an illusionary demon, managed to hit it (and dispelled the illusion) and discovered their first treasure hoard.  This was followed by a mad minute of dancing in place and acting like they were doing the "make it rain money" mobile device game.  Kids!

The next stop was an iron door in the north east part of the dungeon (which the thief couldn't unlock) so they went to a nearby room instead where they were ambushed by a half dozen metallic bone constructs jumping down from ledges.  (They caught on that the skeletons weren't undead once their turn attempts failed).  Woefully unequipped with enough bashing weapons, the skeletal constructs proved difficult to defeat with blades, and Grimson was torn to pieces, dropping to zero hit points before the rest of the group defeated the "eldritch bones".  ACKS uses a mortal wounds table to determine the results when a guy is knocked out to determine whether he's dead, dying, or just really hurt.  In the case of Grimson, he was really hurt and one of his ears was practically ripped off.  They bandaged him, but he'd need a few weeks to recover back in town.

Meanwhile, the other characters discovered a nearby secret door and a second treasure hoard (along with a few magic items - a rod of opening and a scarab of death - which they packed for later).  On the way out of the dungeon, they stopped in a room with various Thulian war masks hanging on the walls.  Malgrim almost got poisoned taking one off the wall (since the masks were trapped with gas) and everyone else quickly backed away.  The commotion attracted more wandering monsters, and Marthanes used his single 1st level spell (Summon Berserker*) to materialize a squad of desert fanatics from the afterlife to fight off the beetles.

After the beetle fight, the players learned something super useful - the summoned berserkers last for 3 turns!  Marthanes' minions were quite willing to go retrieve some masks for him while the party stayed at a safe distance.  With masks in hand, the group limped out of Dwimmermount and back to town.  End of game 1!

*Summon Berserkers is a new spell in the ACKS Player Companion

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dwimmermount's Setting as Old School Tribute

As I continue to run a series of pick-up games in Dwimmermount, I'm going to explore aspects of the setting and dungeon and defend why it's a key OSR creation and model.

The elements that fixed my commitment to reading the voluminous Dwimmermount were the clear lines of inspiration between the setting, Appendix  N literature, and D&D's earliest settings.  Regarding Appendix N, I started this blog years ago with a journey through the list of Appendix N literature.  (If you're a younger gamer, Appendix N refers to a list of inspirational reading, 1979 and earlier, presented by Gary Gygax in the original AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide).  Fantasy shifted in the 1980's with the resurgence of Tolkien's popularity - the genre became dominated by multi-part epic quests, "The Sword of Shannara" effect, incarnated in series like Shannara, Thomas Covenant, Wheel of Time, and so on.  It wasn't until I started devouring earlier fantasy that I understood how the picaresque quality of D&D reflected earlier literary sentiments.

So while TSR and WOTC D&D moved on to principally focus on "adventure path" style gaming that mirrored the shifts in film and literature, the OSR movement developed retro clones and looked to the past, to recreate the energy and wonder that leaps off the page when you read old accounts of the hobby from the 1970's.  It's not all about nostalgia, however; the earlier approaches to running and presenting the game are stylistically different.  Dwimmermount is a modern attempt at recreating a 1970's style setting, dungeon, and play experience.

For now, we are focused on setting.  There are many elements that jump out as throw-back fantasy.  The planetary cosmology, with emphasis on space as a gaseous aether, and the access to nearby planetary realms, is a theme that flows through authors like Lovecraft, Dunsany, and Burroughs.  The green-skinned Amazonian women of Kythirea and red-skinned Eld of Aeron are reminiscent of Jon Carter, while the moon-beasts feature in Lovecraft and Dunsany.  (And of course, I can't help but think of that green-skinned woman from 1960's Stark Trek, you know the one).  The strong Law versus Chaos axis that echoes throughout the dungeon is heavily inspired by Moorcock and Poul Anderson, while the demon lords (particularly Arach-Nacha and the toad-like Tsath-Dagon) are direct homages to Clark Ashton Smith.

Although there were great empires in the past, the men of the present-day setting of Dwimmermount rule isolated City-States.  They hold exotic titles like Despot, or Exarchate, rather than Medieval Kings or Duke, immediately evoking a sense of the decadent and autocratic rulers in the Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar series, or the petty rulers that populate the background of Howard's Hyborian stories.  It's also a clear tribute to one of the earliest and beloved settings for D&D in the 1970's, The Wilderlands of High Fantasy, which was ruled by various City-States and their Overlords, which in turn was hearkening back to earlier styles of fantasy.

Finally, the setting blends a significant amount of 'science fantasy' into the mix.  As characters plumb the depths of Dwimmermount, and unearth more and more of the setting's backstory at the same time, they are put into contact with machines and scientific wonders of the earlier ages (including the gods themselves).  Early D&D settings like the Wilderlands gladly mixed science fantasy into the D&D genre, drawing inspiration from the pulp fantasy authors of the 1930's that freely blended themes themselves.  The principal author I'm thinking of here is Abraham Merrit; the two pieces I've read are "The Face in the Abyss" and "The Moon Pool" (And for film analogs, check out some evocative 1930's movies like "She" or "Lost Horizon").  James calls out his appreciation for AE Merritt in the introduction, even putting a "moon pool" on the first level of Dwimmermount as a direct reference.  Merritt's themes involve people of the present time discovering more advanced lost races, either in forgotten ruins or a hidden society beneath the earth, and getting embroiled in an ages-old conflict.  Dwimmermount incorporates these themes flawlessly with the Terrim and the City of the Ancients deep beneath the dungeons.

I'm sure there are literary references I'm omitting or flat-out missed.  James was extremely well-read on the pulps and incorporated many of the themes into his work; it's hard not to admire the degree to which he emulates, borrows, steals, and recreates themes from early fantasy and the pulps in providing a backdrop for Dwimmermount - almost to the point of affectation!  If you view Dwimmermount as just a big dumb dungeon, you're missing out on it as a vehicle to transport you and your players to D&D's earliest settings, literary roots, and styles of play.

I loved the Wilderlands; my one wish for Dwimmermount's setting is that it included a larger sketch of the world, showing the homelands of the Thulians, the Volmarians, or the mysterious east and its Kingdom of the Priest-King.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Lairs & Encounters Kickstarter for ACKS

I'm taking a moment out of studying to post a kickstarter-related PSA:  Lairs & Encounters, by Autarch (the publishers of Adventurer, Conqueror, King).  The kickstarter has gone swimmingly well, funding in the first week and climbing up the bonus goals.  Alex, the Autarch himself, has declared a promotional challenge in honor of the solstice:  if the kickstarter gets another $500 or so by noon tomorrow, hitting the target goal of $18,500, then he'll unlock the next two bonus goals instead of just one.  If you're thinking about jumping in, this is a good time to do it.  Autarch has developed a cadence of timely releases and providing advance access to the draft manuscript once the kickstarter funds, minimizing the usual crowdfunding risks.

I like resource books full of pre-made content, whether it be something like the old AD&D Rogues Gallery or D&D's Shady Dragon Inn, or a book of ready-to-go monster hideouts like this Lairs & Encounters; they're handy to have any time the party is heading overland.  The book includes 135 monster lairs from the standard bestiary, 16 maps featuring more detailed lairs, some treasure maps, rules for creating and balancing your own monsters, and various sandbox-oriented systems.  Hitting the bonus goal adds 9 more lair maps, 5 more treasure maps, and a handful of new monsters.  On deck are various Viking themed monsters and desert themed monsters.  Naturally, I'm already a backer and would love to see a bunch of new monsters get added to the project!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Visiting Dwimmermount for Christmas

Arise from the dead, sleeping blog; we have things to do.   I have a couple of weeks break over the holidays, and I'm starting a new game.  I've finally taken the weighty, hardbound version of Dwimmermount off the shelf and plumbed it's storied depths to run at the table.

I consciously avoided Dwimmermount after its kickstarter; the affair descended into a messy drama, and when I got the book after an interminable period, I had mixed feelings about the process.  Quite a bit of time has since passed then, and curiosity got the better of me.  Now, after having read the book cover to cover, and kicking off an actual-play adventure there, I state that Dwimmermount is amazing.  Over the course of the next few blog posts, I'll take a deeper look at Dwimmermount and why it's one of the pivotal books in the OSR movement.

But I do need to step back and revisit some points about the publication's history to put my trepidations into context.  There's a deep irony in the publication of Dwimmermount. The source campaign was heavily featured on the blog Grognardia, which catalogued James Maliszewski's exploration of early Dungeons & Dragons and the roots of the RPG hobby.  His blog was a good read, and immensely popular.  James used Dwimmermount to explore the modes of play espoused by Gary Gygax and embodied in Gary's legendary mega dungeon, Castle Greyhawk.

Castle Greyhawk has never seen print.  It was a living, breathing dungeon created over many years and innumerable game sessions, a collection of scant notes, worn maps, and hazy recollections of the author.  As fans, we hounded Gary for decades to commit Castle Greyhawk to a publication.  There have been heroic fan versions, but for various reasons, Gary took the original with him to his grave.

After some years of running his popular Dwimmermount game (and reporting it on his blog), James launched one of the most successful OSR kickstarter campaigns I can recall, to fund a print version of Dwimmermount.  The gentlemen over at Autarch, publishers of Adventurer, Conqueror, King (ACKS), had recently entered OSR publishing with their successful launch of ACKS, and they partnered with James to deliver it.

In a bizarre twist of history repeating itself, the project soon got into trouble.  The effort of turning scant notes, worn maps, and the author's hazy memories, into a fully realized, printed megadungeon, turned out to be just as daunting for James as it had for Gary Gygax.  James withdrew from the project, and Autarch, which had other considerations in play, such as their reputation as a new publisher, and a bevy of planned products, carried on with the commitment to the backers.  The final publication of Dimmermount is a blend of James' original campaign and the embellishments added by Autarch to build out the raw notes, remediate gaps, and reconcile inconsistencies.

The final product is a triumph.  But how do we assign credit and authorship?  I'm perplexed by the ambiguities related to the creative process and the finished work.  Is a creation diminished if the author fails to complete the piece and a second author, or even a third, comes along to see it through?  I'm sure many projects are collective efforts and we are none the wiser for having been spared the details on "how the sausage was made"; in the gaming space, this project stands out because of the public way we came to know the visionary creator withdrew, the sordid response by a minority of fans, and how the remaining team stalwartly carried on.  The mixed pedigree of the product has forced me to reflect on the permutations of collaborative art.  Actually, working the discussion out as I was writing this brought me to an epiphany: is it perhaps silly to get caught up on authorship concerns and pedigree on the eve of "Star Wars Day"?  I'm taking the family to see the new movie tomorrow.  It's not like we even considered looking askance at the work of Disney or JJ Abrams because George Lucas is out of the picture; in fact I'm thankful there will be no Jar Jar Binks.  (Don't let me down, JJ Abrams - I better not see Gungans).

This preamble to Dwimmermount is waxing long.  I'm very fond of the book, and as you check back over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing my reasons for praising it highly.  We'll look at the world of Dwimmermount, its role as Axis Mundi, how it embodies various old school ideals, and then take a look at the dungeons themselves.

To close this bit of blog necromancy, I'll offer a brief account on where I've been:  I started a demanding master's program this past year, a 16 month grind calculated to launch me on that next career arc.  Juggling family, 3 kids, a challenging corporate gig, and a master's program at an Ivy league school has put a serious crimp on creative output and gaming.  I've been keeping up with some blogs, I ran some 5E over the summer, but I've mainly shifted into a consumer of gaming content rather than developing stuff whole cloth for my home games.  That won't change for another year, but I do expect to write about gaming and keep up with the news in OSR-land.  Glad to see so many of you are soldiering on while this place has been dark.