context for tonisborg
The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg is published which is wonderful, yet, there seems to be some confusion regarding the purpose of the book.
Dan and I had assumed most users of the book would understand the underlying premise being this:
Although the book is about the old dungeon maps, the only way to understand the maps is via a tutorial on play methods and a set of rules specifically designed for the play style for the time the maps come from.
Very simply, if the maps had been published as the section on history along with the maps, and without any of the other sections, the maps would have lost what they need most, which is context.
The only way to fully achieve the context within which the maps can be understood is through play.
Today I came across this review which appears on Reddit with a link to a blog review.
The Reddit post:
The Blog post:
These days people tend to get angry when confronted with criticism. I work to avoid reacting emotionally and engage with what I see in a review such as this. After all, I may be wrong and the reviewer may have a point after all.
What I think I see is a simple misunderstanding.
What follows is my response to the reddit post, which I am duplicating here:
The big complaint seems to be about the extra junk.
A lot of thought went into producing that book. The analysis of play technique was extensive. There are even new items and examples I have not seen anywhere else.
The rules draw extensively from pre-publication drafts, OD&D, and Gygax and Arneson house rules. Dan spent years on his rules and I expect as with all RPGs he is still updating his work.
My greatest concern is play technique. It is a dying art. I've watched people play RPGs and it seems like everything is more of a video game on paper - Tonisborg preserves the old ways, which are a verbal tradition for play that has been handed down player to player.
My background with D&D:
I started with Holmes Basic in '77 although I had played D&D on computers as early as '75. I actually thought DnD was originally a computer game and was delighted to discover a paper version. How clever to take a computer program and turn it into a game you play at home when you are away from the PLATO mainframe at CERL.
You can still play it at cyber1.org
The real treat on that system is the first multi player StarTrek battle and take over the universe game, Empire.
Most RPG gamers shy away from the kind of game I like, which is Grip it and Rip it computer gaming and war games. Yet, if you are interested in Empire, we need players. Get a Sign On and I will personally teach you how to play.
We are the oldest Multi Player Computer Gamers in history and our player base is literally dying. We can only muster about 6-8 players for the Sunday "Griff War" anymore.
Back to Holmes...
I bought a copy of the 5e start set. I was curious, What is this game?
I could not make heads or tails of it. It is so poorly written and organized. It is nothing like my Holmes edition which gives you everything you need to know on how to play D&D in only 45 pages!
Tonisborg is a very old artifact that is very incomplete without an explanation on play and a set of rules.
Thus, the entire Tonisborg book has to be the way it is. For anyone who was not playing RPGs in the first 10 years there is no context for what Tonisborg is. To most gamers today it is just another set of maps. To publish it without a way to revive it would be a travesty as people would entirely misunderstand it.
Most of what exists in an RPG is what I call Informal play. It is the exchange between player and referee that is not covered by the rules. This is what the entire book discusses through example. Idealy, anyone purchasing the book will attempt to breath life into an old dungeon and play it. This is when the maps become what they truly are, which is a living thing as a game environment.
Old Refs will read the How to Play section and know all of those tricks. Yet, it is likely they will come upon something they used to do and for some reason stopped doing. Thus even an old hand may treat the play section as a refresher course on how to referee a solid game.
Champions of Zed - Dungeoneering Edition provides a complete system for resurrecting Tonisborg. Yet, Tonisborg is easily played with pure 3 LBB with or without supplements, all the way up to BX. I am about to do a TFT:ITL adaptation.
I can see why the reviewer has so many issues with the book. As the authors we have worked to provide an entire Time Machine Gaming Experience back to 1973 between the covers of Tonisborg.
The 3 sections are inseparable, or Tonisborg has no historical meaning that can be carried into the future.
To the author of the review:
Consider that your experience and knowledge may seem like common information on how to play an RPG, yet, what you do in a game resides within an oral history and tradition that could be lost. If the second and third parts of the book seem redundant to you, then the book has succeeded in preserving even your game methods for posterity, and they will now continue to be passed down through generations of gamers because you are part of this living game as well.
Thanks for the review - Griff
That's all I have for now.
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