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So I have to be honest and say that this book had me at Otus.

What? Well, here is what you see if you look at the cover:


THE DUNGEON ALPHABET
An A-toZ reference for classic dungeon design
by
Michael Curtis

Forward by David "Zeb" Cook
Illustrations by Erol Otus, Jeff Easley,
James Holloway, Jim Roslof, and others


Note the totally awesome old-school feel of the cover art by Erol Otus. I saw that and I just knew I was going to buy this product. Add the talents of Holloway, Roslof, and Easley, and you have a tour de force of old D&D artistic style that an old guy like me just cannot pass up.

What is this book?

In short, this book is 26 lists of things/ideas you can use to stock your dungeon. One category of things for each letter of the alphabet.

Some selected letters:

B is for books - this section contains a list of 100 random book titles and authors as well as a special properties table. The book title range from funny to realistic, the authors from humorous to homage.

G is for Gold - contains a table of 20 random forms of gold.

R is for Rooms - contains a table of 20 random rooms and chancy chambers (my favorite = Carnivorous Room: hidden danger lurks in the room disguised as normal furnishings, walls, floor, or ceiling). This section also contains 10 sub tables that allow you to randomly generate the original purpose of a room or chamber.

W is for Weird - contains a table perplexing things and events of a weird nature.


Anything else?

Along with the tables, each section provides a paragraph or two of text explaining how to best use the provided tables, hints for when to use a particular item or theme, and entertaining tidbits about the particular category being discussed. Only 4 of the 26 lists/tables are directly related to creatures - this is a book of ideas and hints to help you populate a dungeon with interesting items, artifacts, and locations, not monsters.

The book is 48 pages long and all but about 5 pages are decorated with a rich black and white old-school style pencil art that perfectly matches the lighthearted style of the text and tables. The tone of the text is consistent throughout and it perfectly matches the art and the content of the tables.


Jim Roslof piece spanning pages 16-17



Why Might You Add This To Your Collection?

It is lighthearted and at the same time could help you flesh out an otherwise bland room or dungeon (or even the bookcase at the local lord's house).

It is inexpensive - $9.99 USD for the hardbound version, only $7.99 USD for the PDF

It has great art by some of the masters of the old-school fantasy style; the art is not recycled

It is a quick reference that could be flipped open for a quick hit of inspiration


Some Quotes:

David 'Zeb' Cook in the forward wrote:
As a game designer, I know all too well the damage that can be done by blind adherence to tables. But, nonetheless, I love them. There is a joy in the enumeration of things, that by listing them you give them life and form. Well-built they are an inspiration - they become springboards for imagination, sketches that leave you to create the whole. The tables here are just that, ideas for you, the reader, the DM, the player - the gamer - to play with as you will.


This speaks to me because I am also a lover of tables. Admittedly, this is a throw-back to my Basic D&D and AD&D origins, but table still call to me.

Michael Curtis, the author, in the introduction wrote:
In order to get the greatest use out of this supplement, it's best if you be willing to reenter the dungeon with an open mind. Forget for the time being everything you think you know about how to design a dungeon. Don;t allow yourself to be burdened by the shackled of plausibility and reality. The dungeon bows to neither of these. Deep within the depths of the earth, the rules associated with the sunlit lands do not always hold sway and the bizarre becomes the norm. So stop worrying and love the dungeon, no matter how odd or implausible it may seem. You might find yourself coming away with some ideas that could never have taken root in the more modern and mature dungeon of today.


This sums up nicely what the intent of the book is, but in an indirect way. This is meant as an inspirational book. It is meant to help a DM gather ideas and thoughts and then jump outside the modern realist dungeon and snap back to a time when weird stuff happened to PCs when they were in a dank dark cavern or musty stone fortress for days on end.

Summary:

If you are looking for a complete list of tables to use in any situation, or a product that will fill in the holes during an in-game emergency (e.g. NPC name/town description/tavern name), this is not the book for you - you would be better off buying the fantastic Ultimate Toolbox by AEG.

However, if you are looking for a nicely produced, inexpensive book of ideas and old-school inspiration, with a consistent tone and a few innovative tidbits, this would be a good bargain for you.

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Shanya Almafeta
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I think I need to keep a track of Zeb Cook's quote...
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Aleksander R. Nordgarden Rødner
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Compared to 9.99, 7.99 seems kinda steep for the PDF. Is the PDF included with the print version?
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DMSamuel
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razumny wrote:
Compared to 9.99, 7.99 seems kinda steep for the PDF. Is the PDF included with the print version?


To be honest I have no idea. The print run was limited and there probably won't be a second one... that may play into the price point determination.
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Chad Bowser
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My wife surprised me with this on Christmas. I had heard of it, but never really considered purchasing it since I don't play that many fantasy games. However, I'm glad she bought it for me. It's an incredibly fun little book that has me jonesing for some old-school fantasy gaming.
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Dave Bernazzani (@rpggeek)
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Based on this review, I just got in my copy. Good stuff indeed!

-Dave
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wavemotion wrote:
Based on this review, I just got in my copy. Good stuff indeed!

-Dave


Woot! I am now an RPG pusher! "Here's a bit for free, now you have to buy the rest"
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Teh Slipperboy

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lorddillon wrote:
wavemotion wrote:
Based on this review, I just got in my copy. Good stuff indeed!

-Dave


Woot! I am now an RPG pusher! "Here's a bit for free, now you have to buy the rest"


I'm not sure that I'd list "Convinced Dave to buy a game" on your highlight reel for 2011.
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King of the Dead
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Damn, you beat me to it. I was going to write a review of this but was too lazy.

I love this book! It's great to simply flip through it for ideas. At a glance it seems like it wouldn't be worth it since the stuff inside is nothing you can't find online. But the artwork is great and it's got a really good "feel" to it.

Something about it as a solid book just makes it totally worth having.
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