Ravenous Reviews: Classic Dungeon Design Guide

Just the Facts

Title: Classic Dungeon Design Guide

Author: Kent David Kelly

Publisher: Wonderland Imprints

Price Point: $4.99

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If you have ever wanted to know how to quickly and masterfully create your own mega-dungeon for your pen-and-paper Fantasy Role-Playing Game (PNP FRPG) campaigns, this is the perfect book for you.  This Game Master’s guide will show you, step by step, how to take your vague-yet-promising ideas and how to sculpt them with precise and careful design decisions (enhanced, if you prefer, by random die rolls), allowing you to conceive an endless mega-dungeon in record time.

Best of all, the CASTLE OLDSKULL CLASSIC DUNGEON DESIGN GUIDE is also system-neutral.  No matter which of the many FRPGs you choose to play, from basic skill level to advanced, a first edition or a fifth or anything in between, the lessons you master here will serve you in your gaming for years to come.  Learn how to make the most of your ever-dwindling prep time, so that you can spend those saved hours gaming with your friends!

This old school Guide is filled to overflowing with more than 325 pages of design material and dungeon generation tables.

Cover Art

Score: 3 out of 5

The quality of the cover art is good, but I think it missed the mark on the theme of the book. It’s a book about dungeon design, but the artwork depicts a castle sitting atop a rise. This didn’t really put me in the mood to read a book about dungeons. I’ll grant that the full title of the book is “Castle Oldskull — The Classic Dungeon Design Guide,” but I didn’t get an “Oldskull” feel from the artwork either.

Mechanics

Score: 5 out of 5

This is a great book for generating ideas. I would not take the ideas straight up from the die rolls for making your dungeon (unless the randomly generated idea fits just right). Instead, I would roll on a bunch of the charts, jot down things as is from the results, and once you have enough ideas generated, then you can sit down and ponder how to alter them to fit together. This is not a jigsaw puzzle where all of the pieces are predefined for you. Ideas are malleable. Treat them as such. Take the plethora of things you can get from this book and see how they all fit together. You can even throw some out if you don’t like them!

Prose

Score: 4 out of 5

I was tempted to ding the book for lack of prose, but this is a reference book for getting juicy tid-bits to build a dungeon. There are a few grammatical issues and tough to read sentences here and there, so I took off a point here. If you’re thinking to read this for pleasure, please back out. It’s not a “fun to read” kind of book. Instead, it’s a “nice to have” for someone considering building a dungeon.

Layout

Score: 3 out of 5

The table of contents doesn’t start until page 14 of the PDF, which makes it hard to find. For a reference document, I feel the TOC should be as close to the beginning of the document as possible. This is not a book to be read from page 1 through page 329. It’s meant to be jumped around in, and the TOC is a vital piece of this. Speaking of jumping around, the TOC is not hyperlinked, which means it’s not as useful as it could be for a PDF version of the book. Lastly, the TOC entries are centered, which makes a quick skim for a subject line and matching page number nearly impossible. Having said all of this, I think the ordering of the book is done quite well, and the contents and charts are easy to read.

Interior Art

Score: 0 out of 5

I normally evaluate on a scale of 1-5, but this book was completely devoid of interior art. I realize this is a reference book, but putting the GMs “in the moment” with illustrations lights up the imagination. This allows for more creativity and a better use of the book. I gotta go with a zero because I feel even a poorly done illustration is worth more than none at all.

Bonus Points

Score: 2 out of 5

Not much bonus here. It’s just a bunch of charts for rolling on and gathering ideas about how to build, populate, decorate, and otherwise make your dungeons a little more lively or unique. The book is packed full of ideas, so if you’re short in some area of adding detail to your dungeons, this is the book for you!

Overall Score: 17 out of 25

Overall Thoughts

This is a good collection of charts for decorating, creating, detailing, or just coming up with high-level concepts of dungeons. It’s billed as such, and it does this job quite well. I think some more work could have gone to increase the production value of the book (like improving the table of contents) without increasing the cost. Throwing in some interior art (black and white illustrations come to mind) wouldn’t have increased the publisher’s cost that much, and they could have bumped the price point up a dollar or two. This would have drastically improved the value of the book. All-in-all, I’m a little disappointed in the book, but I’m happy to have it in my collection for the next time I need to add a little extra flavor to a dungeon.

NOTE: I purchased this book myself. It was not given or donated to me for the purposes of the review. The author and publisher of the book have no idea I’m writing this. The only way I make any gains off of writing this review is if you go out and purchase the book using the link provided with my affiliate ID intact. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the link for your purchase, and it’ll allow me to build up credits to use on future purchases for future reviews.

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