Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Certain Vibe – Dyson’s Delves, Tsoran and Gemstone IV

I’ve been a gamer since I could read. Perhaps, thanks to my dad, before I could read.
Some of my favorite games have something in common, a certain vibe. My favorite D&D modules are some of the earliest: Keep on the Borderlands,Ghost Tower of Inverness, Isle of Dread, and the adventure that appeared in Butterfield, Parker and Honigmann’s What is Dungeons and Dragons book.
All of them have the same vibe; an organic construction, a hint of what is to come and a basic hook that could be implemented at anytime. There is the name place which is foreboding and yet interesting. A diagram like structure of events. A collection of “show, don’t tell” sample characters to inform the DM of what is expected from the players. And nothing else.
It was all so simple:
“Do X and maybe Y will happen.
“Can’t really say for sure, your players have free rein.
“Make it work.”
I loved the way these old modules assumed that you and your players had something to bring to the table. There were events, maps, and charts documented, but you needed people to make the whole thing work.
That is awesome.
Recently, I returned to Gemstone IV, a MUD that thrives on the idea that players make the story. Being entirely text based, everything is very rich in descriptions and only rarely does art make it’s way into this world. There are many talented artists at Simutronics; but again, living by their player base, the players also a very creative bunch. Strangely, one of the most prolific “artists” was a player going by the handle Tsoran. He spent his time creating maps of the Lands of Elanthia. He may not consider himself to be an artist, but his maps ARE the image of the Lands. It is what I picture when I think of the game.
A number of years ago, Tsoran stepped away from the game and left the work of mapping the Lands to others. There would be no more updates to his maps. I have always been enviously of his detailed maps and wanted to make my own. Sadly, they never compared and I did not share too many.
Until I stumbled on Dyson Logo and his tutorials. Using his methods, I quickly cranked out a map that I loved. One that did not surpass Tsoran’s source materials, but stood along side. I was extremely please with myself.
Soon, I found myself digging through Dyson’s maps and blog postsfor more artwork to emulate so that I could improve my works. I found that he has a series of books called Dyson Delves. I ordered the first one and found myself back in The Keep on the Borderlands.
Dyson’s books capture that certain vibe. Unscripted but beautifully detailed. Just thumbing through the first book gave me the same feeling I had when reading those classic modules.
Go give Dyson a try. His work is available at RPGNow in electronic form or from Lulu in book form.