Monday, June 20, 2016

Gygax Module Stats, Part 2

Continuing from last week, here's a rough breakdown of the encounter areas in Gygax's published modules from the era of tournament origins (first appearing in conventions from 1975-1978). A few notes: This only includes dungeon areas, not wilderness or other adventuring locales. The categorizations given here are of course roughly subjective, and are discussed in detail further below. Again I try to present them in approximate chronological order of creation.

Gygax Module Encounter Areas 1


In the table above, the column marked "Empty" counts any room lacking a monster, trap, or treasure; but they are almost never literally bare. Most often this will be a fully-stocked storage chamber, supply room, armory, or at least some arcane decoration which foreshadows what is yet to come. Perhaps the closest one gets to a truly empty area are the galleries under clearance in the dungeon of G1, with only a few giant tools present. Contrast this with Rob Kuntz's WG5 module (1972-1973 design), which really does have many totally unkeyed/blank rooms on the map, with no defined contents whatsoever.

Initially I intended "Monster" to be a creature with zero treasure, in contrast to the "Monster & Treasure" entry. But midway through the assessment, I realized there was a bit of a problem; a common Gygax trope was to have some boundary guards with very small amounts of treasure (say, 1d6 or 2d6 sp or gp, something like that), and then a leader's chamber with a more sizable haul (hundreds or thousands of gold pieces). So later on I tried to put the "pocket change" bearing monsters in the first monster column, and the "major haul" monsters in the second; but this was extremely subjective, and I'm not sure that I always got it right (in retrospect, ideally I'd have some cutoff threshold for each dungeon based on adventuring level; perhaps someone else can improve on that). Again, contrast to Kuntz's WG5; most of the monsters there really have zero treasure.

The "Treasure" column represents halfway significant treasure with no monster guarding it, but is still often hidden, trapped, and/or dangerous to procure in some way. In the "Trick/Trap" column I counted things like actual traps, secret exits, penned-in captives (with a mixed of helpful and hurtful figures), possible allies, random magical effects, teleporting areas, aquatic travel challenges, etc.

Looking at the individual modules: S1 is of course infamous for being almost entirely trick/trap based, and it clearly shows up as an outlier in that sense above. S4 is a bit of a hack-fest; the lower level in particular is almost comical for every room, one after the other, being uniformly a huge monster with an equally huge treasure (somewhere I think I read Gygax saying he wrote this in a single weekend, and frankly, I think it shows; which is not to say that it's bad or something that I could replicate). G1-3 are of course the giant strongholds, organized and run in a coherent fashion for that purpose. G1 gives the appearance of more "empty" rooms, by virtue of its always-in-session celebratory feast (leaving many barracks and bedchambers devoid of occupants). D1-3 here only count the major encounter areas, not the minor encounters leading up the the main "dungeons" (arguably the out-areas function similar to a wilderness overland journey).

What I left for the end here: Module S3 deserves its own dissertation, as it is a wild, dense, and elaborately baroque one-of-a-kind adventure; it has the largest, most sprawling map of any of Gygax's modules, and any given area is liable to have a dozen crazy, new unique features just to liven up a particular room. At the same time, it is the only module in the list that reflects a particular old-school design sensibility: it has hundreds of rooms and areas which are actually unkeyed and blank on the map itself (although they are given a general guideline of having "jumbled furniture or rotting goods... inanimate skeletons..."). Meanwhile, levels II, V, and most of IV are enormous open areas, which made for a huge dilemma on my part about what to count as an "encounter area" (statistics above actually do count all of the separate empty rooms in S3; perhaps that was ill-advised).

Here's a design element that shows up in a few of these early modules that is not used later on: Re-using a particular key code for a very large number of small, similar monster lairs (S3 for its vegepygmy rooms and dangerous flora, S4 in the gnome lair, D1 for troglodyte caves, and D2 for Kuo-Toan pilgrim apartments). Which made a significant assessment coding problem: Should I count each of these minor rooms as a separate encounter area? Ultimately, I did count each one separately for S3, but did not count each separately for D1-2. (At least in D2, it would have added 45 rooms with monsters and 7 empty rooms.) I apologize for that discrepancy.

Now I wonder: Did anyone ever successfully run the S3 module? Just looking at the insane density of its maps and text (to say nothing of its special mechanics and illustration booklet, even a unique full-color insert!) leaves me trembling with fear at the prospect.

10 comments:

  1. I assume you are analyzing the published S4 versus the original tournament "Tsojconth" version? There were many revisions made for publication. Some of the keyed areas in S4 are unkeyed & empty in the original.

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    1. Yes, looking at the later S4 module here. Interesting to hear that about the earlier tournament version!

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    2. Delta---You can check out two sets of encounters for Tsojconth vs. S4 on my site @ http://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/gh_s4_encounters.html

      Allan.

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    3. Great; someone else just clued me in to those details in the past few days. Actually, your side-by-side comparison is extremely helpful, thanks for the link to that!

      A side detail: What did Gygax have against Sahuagin, e.g., to remove them from the early S4, and create Kuo-Toa who mostly serve an identical function?

      Also, now I'm sucked down the pipe of reading your site again so I blame you for an hour or two of lost productivity today.

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  2. Great work as usual Delta. Thanks also for getting the details right in the comments on your previous Gygax modules post regarding T1-4. It is amusing and embarrassing that I didn't remember that I had emailed Gygax many years ago and that he had provided me with some answers and insight regarding the T modules! [I took a long break from gaming during the 2000's, and evidently forgot much that I had previously learned!]

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    1. I'm SO glad I didn't misread that in your links. :-) Thanks goodness you inquired and documented it at the time!

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  3. Shouldn't trick and trap be separate categories? Tricks typically cause no damage, traps, OTOH can be deadly. An adventure could be very Tricky or very Trappy and the deadliness of the two very different.

    Of even more interest to me would be a separate category for % of unguarded treasure that is trapped. I started a thread on ODD74 a while back and looked at the original Tsojconth and the original Temple of the Frog (here: http://odd74.proboards.com/thread/11401/chance-trapped-treasure ) and came up with about 5% of treasures were trapped, but it was a small sample and I didn't distinguish between treasures with monsters and those without. There isn't much in the way of guidance from the books on how often a monster-less treasure should be trapped.

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    1. I did consider that, but in practice Gygax's stuff makes the distinction very hazy (frequently a combination of effects). In fact, he always combined the category himself in listings (e.g., Dungeon Geomorphs guidance "one-sixth traps and/or tricks", DMG Random Dungeon Appendix Table V "19 Trick/Trap", Table VII "Trick/Trap"). Plus, if separated the frequencies would be so low as to be almost always zero in the "per six" totals.

      OD&D Vol-3 says (p. 8), "Unguarded Treasures should be invisible, hidden behind a secret door or under the floor, locked in hard-to-open strong boxes with poison needles or deadly gas released when they are opened. (There are many variants of the above possible, and many other types of protection which can be devised.)"

      So to me that sounds like a blanket statement, and likewise, there's no qualifier to the table in the Monster & Treasure Assortment/DMG. Seems like EGG intended any non-monster-guarded treasure to be either hidden or trapped, as a general rule.

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    2. I noticed a little while ago that unguarded "treasure map" treasure was always the kind of thing PCs would leave behind - Silver and Copper. As if all treasure was guarded unless the guardians had already been slain and all of the good loot carried off.

      Which suggests that it's totally acceptable to have terrible loot out in the open as long as you rationalize that nobody has come along to take it. For example if there are Giant Rats or Kobolds in the dungeon any loot no matter how valueless is going to be scrounged up eventually.

      That said, the treasure map rules seem kludged together and way too generous compared to the treasure types, so maybe they're not a good thing to compare to.

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    3. That's a fair observation.

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