I’ve been a gamer since the early 80’s.
I started with the red and blue Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons and I’ve been rolling the dice ever since. I’ve played old school, new school, and a few things out-of-school.
A few years back I discovered the Old School Renaissance and it captured my imagination. My old books have never been far from hand and it wasn’t uncommon for me to pull out a vintage manual or adventure and read through it for fun or to mine for ideas. On rare occasions I’d even run something using an old rules set, but it wasn’t until I began reading OSR blogs that I latched on to the idea of choosing these games, or their clones, as mainstays. Many of those blogs are still going strong, and a perusal through my Blogroll will reveal several of my favorites. But there was one blog above all that is responsible for me being sucked into the OSR.
James Maliszewski, the blog’s author, is a gifted writer with a passion for not just looking at how the old games were played, but why the rules were created, and what things still resonate with gamers all these decades later. He is good at taking a fresh look at the classic tropes, exploring the original concepts behind things, how they changed over time, and how we can do something new with them. A few examples I’ve put to use in my own games include his discussions on Rangers and Paladins.
Maliszewski is also a good storyteller. I’m picky about reading game session write-ups. I enjoy reading summaries, but detailed accounts of what other people have done tend to lose me. It’s hard to hold my attention with a long post about what other people were doing at the gaming table. Maliszewski’s reports about his Dwimmermount campaign were some of the rare exceptions.
Maliszewski sees old school gaming as being about exploration, making him a gamer after my own heart. His megadungeon is filled with a rich and interesting history and his session reports reflected this. They were not about how Character A fought Monster B, but about the things the party discovered down in the darkened halls. Reading these reports I was able to get a taste of that discovery.
It made me want to learn more.
When Maliszewski announced that he was launching a Kickstarter to release an official Dwimmermount book I felt no small amount of excitement. In fact, it was the first Kickstarter project I backed.
If you’ve been around the OSR for any length of time, you know how that went. To sum up, the project was funded but fell apart and the book was never produced. For various reasons Maliszewski failed to complete the project and as a result he closed up his blog and dropped out of the pubic’s eye.
Many people have opinions on all this. Mine are simple; A writer I like very much got in over his head and failed to complete a project I invested in (note: invested, not a pre-purchase.) While things could have been handled better, unlike many Kickstarter horror stories he owned what happened, took the blame, and didn’t try any ridiculous schemes to save his reputation and screw more people over. He took the heat and moved on.
I also think that the OSR is poorer for having lost his voice.
Before leaving completely, Maliszewski passed the project over to the folks at Autarch, who publish the Adventurer Conqueror King game system. The Autarch folks had been partners in the project and took over the task of trying to complete the book while still producing their own products. Over the years there would be occasional updates, new deadlines to be missed, and beta test files posted to the backers’ site, all of which I stopped paying attention to long ago.
Until last week.
Last week they posted a nearly 400 page proof document of the Dwimmermount book, complete with artwork and tables. It’s a monster of a file, filled with information on the legendary (now infamous) megadungeon. For the first time in years, they have my attention.
I have no idea if I’ll ever hold a physical copy of the book in my hand, and with things like Stonehell Dungeon and The Castle of the Mad Archmage already on my shelf I’m even less sure I’d run it. Also, at this point I won’t be reading James Maliszewski’s work as much as Alexander Macris’ interpretation of it.
Still, the proof copy is going onto my iPad and I am looking forward to giving it a read-through.
And if you’re looking for something to read, delve into the Grognardia archives.