Friday, April 17, 2009

A Reprieve from Hell

If you’ll look to the right-hand side of this page, you’ll notice that I’ve collected all three of the upper levels of Stonehell into single zipped files, one for each level. Looking back at the work that I’ve done over the last four months, I’m very pleased with how the dungeon has developed incrementally during that time and I’m eagerly anticipating what remains to be done.

In the process of reviewing the completed levels, which is something I’ve been doing a bit of lately, I’ve begun to see little flaws in the overall scheme of things. Nothing too troublesome, but as the dungeon has evolved with each new section and level, I’ve discovered some minor details that I’d like to change now that I know for certain what lays deeper in the bowels of the place. For a while now, I’ve been considering going back and doing a small amount of rewriting in order to make the dungeon tighter and to give it a bit more of an overall thematic structure.

The more that I considered this, the more the idea began to grow on me. I saw the opportunity to improve on the general two-page format and began to consider collecting various background information and the dungeon’s crunchy bits under separate headings to make referencing those aspects of the dungeon easier during play. I’m now convinced that to do so would be for the best.

Due to this plan, I’m suspending doing regular releases of new dungeon sections for the foreseeable future. My plan is to go back and make the changes that I feel I need to do, collect the background, monsters, new magics, etc. into single chapters and to assemble a definitive upper works of the dungeon to help tie the whole thing together. Once this is finished, I’m going to collect these sections, along with Levels One through Five, and make the entire first half of the dungeon available as a single release. I think the end result will be a much better dungeon that can be explored canonically as a whole if one wished to do so, without sacrificing the ability to take parts of the dungeon and plug them into an ongoing game.

My decision to do this shouldn’t be misconstrued as a growing lack of interest in Stonehell; quite the opposite. I’ve already finished mapping the fourth level of the dungeon and have completed the notes for the first two sections of it. I’m writing those sections up in the slightly altered format that I intend to eventually apply to the completed levels in order to see if it functions the way I intend it to. So far, it looks good.

I’m not going to attempt to set a deadline for the completion of the upper half of Stonehell. As last week reminds us, one can never completely expect what each week will bring. I might plow through my rewrite quickly or it may be a slow, painstaking process. In either case, I will make Stonehell into a better place (from the referee’s point of view anyway. I can’t promise the adventurers an easier time). I’m comfortable taking the time to do this now because, if the post game reports that I’ve been seeing from people exploring Stonehell are any indication, I’ve got a big time buffer before any of those adventurers start edging close to Level Four. I’d also like to do this now rather than finish up the first half of the dungeon completely and then have to go back and make the adjustment over the entire thing. It’s less of a time sink that way.

I’m also anticipating being up to my eyeballs in One-Page Dungeons over the next month due to the One-Page Dungeon Contest, so I believe that it’ll be for the best to suspend regular posting of Stonehell levels so that I a) don’t burn out completely from staring at the template over and over again and b) avoid influencing Stonehell or unconsciously plagiarizing contest entries while I’m writing up each new section of the dungeon.

Please excuse this temporary state of affairs. I truly believe that the end result will be a much better dungeon because of it. Thank you.

11 comments:

Chris said...

*twitches and shivers from cold turkey*

"Aw heck Mike. You /gotta/ hit me up. I'm really hurtin' here man..."

Nah, it's all good. Looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Chgowiz said...

Remember the advice when you're doing your review: "Shut up and just love your dungeon!" :D

(Word verify is: slizedef - Maybe a name for one of your upcoming monsters?)

Zachary The First said...

Yeah, totally understand. I'm also looking forward to the compilation and seeing if I can catch the tweaks. :)

Joseph said...

Nothing at all wrong with retconning stuff. I do it regularly with my own CotMA. Might be interesting to keep a list of the changes, though, for posterity's sake.

Amityville Mike said...

I don't plan on abandoning my mantra of "Stop worrying and love the dungeon." This is not an attempt to make things more sensible or realistic.

I plan to include a bit more foreshadowing on the upper levels as to indicate what awaits adventurers deeper in and make a few changes to make Stonehell appear to be a living setting - more cross-level traffic signs, interaction between levels, etc - while still allowing the whole setting to be used piecemeal if needed. I also have some pretty groovy ideas for the appendices that the space on the two-pagers doesn't allow for.

I've got high hopes but I see a few hurdles that need to be solved before this becomes a reality. Once I have all the six levels laid out, the biggest of those hurdles will be solved and I expect a swift turnaround after that point.

Jeff Rients said...

My plan is to go back and make the changes that I feel I need to do, collect the background, monsters, new magics, etc. into single chapters and to assemble a definitive upper works of the dungeon to help tie the whole thing together.I'm a bit hesitant about this plan. One of the great feature of Stonhell as it currently exists is that the two pages in front of me are everything I need to run the level. What do you think of combining the new toys by level?

Amityville Mike said...

That's another idea that I'm still considering. The layout may end up with a page or two of general notes about a level section or two, followed by the two-pager, then more level notes, with another two-pager after that.

I really want to keep it so that both pages of each section appear side by side so that if the compliation is printed, the ref dosen't have to flip around. Compling monster & magic notes by level section might be the best compromise, as this will keep the info close at hand. I'll have a better idea once I get the initial layout hurdles fixed and see how things are going to line up.

Thanks for the suggestion, Jeff.

Anonymous said...

perhaps on the random monster tables have the possibility of a monster from another level or area.

Badmike said...

"I'm a bit hesitant about this plan. One of the great feature of Stonhell as it currently exists is that the two pages in front of me are everything I need to run the level. What do you think of combining the new toys by level?"

I'm with Jeff...the very act of "tidying" the levels up seems to be a refutation of the purpose of the thing. However, let me say, that personally I don't have a problem with that as I would never, never, never be able to work the two page dungeon scheme myself...I'm much too in love with fiddly bits, descriptive passages and long winded explanations. It makes me wonder if the entire 1 or 2 page dungeon extravaganza is just a "fad" that will soon fade away as bloggers move into other meatier pursuits.

OdRook said...

Sounds good to me! My Stonehell is starting to take on its own personality, but I'd really enjoy seeing more of your ideas, particularly in terms of interconnecting the levels and areas a little more.

Speaking of which, any hints about Level 1's quadrant A? I get the feeling my players will be in there for quite some time to come, and I'd love to start sprinkling in the sorts of things they'll see more of when your compilation is done.

(word verification: uncedie. Isn't that some kind of Jawa cussin'?)

Amityville Mike said...

Speaking of which, any hints about Level 1's quadrant A?

I can't give any hints as to what might change with 1A right at the moment. I've yet to actually sit down and start editing Level 1 through 3, since I'm concentrating on trying to determine what's in the last two levels to finish up the whole first half.

You can of course drop a couple hints as to what's on the rest of Level 1 - captured or bribed Kobolds make a great way to do that - and maybe foreshadow level 2 a bit. What the final alterations or hinted knowledge to the upper few levels is still to be determined.