My influences, part 1

Life keeps me busy and opportunities to finish my current project are limited (sorry Oscar); I’d like to add a few comments in response to Dan’s newest post on Aylesbury, but for now I’ll just talk a bit about my influences as a scenario writer as that might be of interest to my reader and anyone considering writing some material of there own…

Like nearly every gamer of my generation, my first exposure to the hobby came from Dungeons and Dragons. While most of the early modules were little more than a series of vaguely linked monsters and/or traps (Hello Against the Giants and your 10×10 room with six trolls) there were a few modules that influenced my perspective on what gaming- including ‘Call of Cthulhu’ -can be.

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan– A Mesoamerican influenced tournament

Love that E.O. cover

scenario, which while little more than the aforementioned monsters and traps, made use of its unique setting and gave its pre-generated characters personality. Using mid-level characters it allowed interesting albeit mundane threats to take center stage (poison gas, relatively weak monsters used in clever ways, encounters where fighting wasn’t always the solution) showing me the possibility of dungeons as real(ish) places rather than simply monster holding pens. Additional points for encouraging me to read up on the Maya and Aztecs. Finally, that cursed axe that cast a shadow of a human arm really creeped me out.

Is that the false lich encounter?

Contrast this to the inexplicably popular Tomb of Horrors. Here is a dungeon without rhyme or reason, a tedious slog of arbitrary trap to the next arbitrary trap. I can recall at least three automatic death traps without even cracking my old copy open. What is the point, unless you really hate your players? “Oh, you picked the left door? You die, no save.”. Ever the final battle with Acererak is a crap-shoot of guessing which spell might hurt a Demi-lich. Are there clues on how to beat it? Nope. I’m not surprised to read that Gygax created the module to “test” powerful characters; he always seemed obsessed with proving the DM was “the boss”. At least the art booklet was nifty.

Up next- more D&D, including a haunted house, a forgotten temple, and a cute little guy named Zargon…