Jungle Alert! ChicagoWiz reviews FitJ.

March 24, 2011

Hexcrawling in style.

ChicagoWiz offers fair and useful criticisms of my book.

In summary, ChicagoWiz says:  “Any setting book is going to have things that the reader can use, things they don’t like, and things that simply serve as seeds for imagination later on. Dustin’s Fire in the Jungle is exactly that. There was a lot I found in here useful right away, even outside of a jungle environment, and some things that I didn’t like. Aside from the issue with the dungeon map being difficult to use as-is, there’s not really anything “wrong” with the book that I would hold up as a red flag. The random tunnel/dungeon generators is a personal issue, and many people will no doubt find it a positive part.

I really liked Dustin’s brevity, his straight to the point approach and a few hints of what seems to be his sense of weird, whimsical and odd humor throughout. That only adds to the overall great nature of the book. I recommend this book to anyone looking to incorporate a jungle setting, or just wanting a very inexpensive sandbox setting book to use as some reference.”

ChicagoWiz played a hand in motivating me to make the supplement as good as I could make it, so I’m pleased that he gives it an overall thumbs up.  We also had a productive exchange of emails this week discussing the supplement.  Here are my responses:

Thanks for writing this review, ChicagoWiz.  A fair and useful criticism of my book.ChicagoWiz and I had a productive exchange of emails this week about what he did and didn’t like in my book. I feel my responses to him were rather longwinded, so I’ll try to summarize and just hit the highlights here:Regarding the MagCloud service. They market themselves as a magazine POD service, but really you can publish anything there. My wife and I printed our holiday cards there. Very easy to use.Advantages: Reasonable production costs for full color interior @ 20 cents per page, or 16 cents per page for bulk orders. Cheap shipping to US, Canada, and UK. Reasonable shipping elsewhere. Super easy to create, upload, and manage publications. Another big factor for me was the THICK paper stock for books of 16 pages or less.Disadvantages: Limited options for format…basically it’s all full color 8.5×11. Not much RPG stuff there currently, so I don’t expect to get any “window shopping” sales.

“I’ve found that random dungeon generation at the table slows things down and seems – at least to me – to create a different feel to the game, almost like a gambling game or card game.”

This is fair criticism, and one I recognize. The Tunnel Event system is an attempt to abstract the essential tension of dungeoneering: “Should we continue deeper in search of greater reward at greater risk, or return to the surface while we are still alive and know where we are?” The intent was to enable exploration of a complex, changing, and unmappable tunnel system, while still retaining that essence of dungeoneering. The side effect of additional abstraction (beyond what abstraction D&D already contains) is that it may begin to feel more “gamey”. Indeed, it may not be to the taste of some roleplayers, but I think the general concept has potential and I’m eager to learn of other techniques for accomplishing what it tries to do.

“…but it was that very view and the color selection that made the map difficult to use. There’s no grid, and just a ruler that lays out what is 5′, 30′ and so on. If the DM has to escalate by turns, and you’re using movement to measure how long a turn is, this map is going to frustrate you.”A valid criticism of the Tomb of the Monkey God, especially regarding the problem of reconciling the turn-based escalation system with the non-gridded map. ChicagoWiz clarified to me that he liked the presentation and structure of the map, but didn’t like the lack of measurement grid. I didn’t include a measurement grid because I prefer to “eyeball” the length of corridors. My intention was to discourage square-counting and encourage a faster, off-the-cuff playstyle, but ChicagoWiz brought to my attention that a grid can also help encourage that playstyle via the time-saving convenience it provides the DM.I’ve come to realize that ChicagoWiz and I have a similar playstyle, but because most of my play these days is via email, the tools that help me run games might be too clunky to be of use to him DMing a fast-paced tabletop session. For him, the random dungeon generation systems are more useful as a prep tool.Also, to clarify how I view the relationship between the Ant Tunnel Event system and the Tomb Escalation system: They are different and accomplish different purposes. The ant tunnel system says “with greater risk comes greater reward, but these tunnels are unpredictable so whatchya gonna do, punk?”. Whereas the escalation system simply says “the longer you stay in there, the more frequently you’ll encounter wandering monsters, so hurry yer ass up!”Lastly (and this has nothing to do with this review but is just something I wanted to make note of), to give credit where it is due, the escalation system I use in the Tomb of the Monkey God is based on the system Paul Jaquays used in his “Crypts of Arcadia” adventure contained in his classic Book of Treasure Maps.


2 Responses to “Jungle Alert! ChicagoWiz reviews FitJ.”

  1. Justin S. Davis said

    My copy arrived last week, and I absolutely loved it.

    I’ll happily buy more supplements if you put ’em out.

  2. dpbrandt said

    Hi Justin. Very exciting to get positive feedback from an actual paying customer!

    I’m still very much a “spare time” amateur writer/publisher and don’t have anything close to being ready to reveal anytime soon, but there are some things in the works that might see the light of day later this year.

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