The Levels of Zelda

I think I’ve mentioned before that I consider the original The Legend of Zelda an almost perfect example of a game design. The game flows beautifully, challenges the player, and provides lots of rewards for exploration. It’s also one of the finest dungeon crawlers of all time, despite a surprisingly small number of clones to Read More …

Little Hearts Like the One in Me

“Hello, my name is Jimmy Pop and I’m a dumb white guy, I’m not old or new but middle school, fifth grade like junior high.” — The Bloodhound Gang, “Fire Water Burn” 1984. My uncle leaves a party. I ask my Mom where he went. “To play Dungeons & Dragons,” she says. I ask her Read More …

Dangerous Archaeology

I often refer to Dungeons & Dragons as a game of dangerous archaeology. In their classic tomb-robbing mode, the party enters an underworld with its own history, meaning, and ecology.* The process of exploring a dungeon is much like the process of excavating a tomb… except eighty times faster and with more blood and looting. Read More …

What makes a thief?

(In which, as a remedy for an unquiet mind, I begin designing a thief class for my Swords & Wizardry/Labyrinth Lord/Rules Cyclopedia game.) The thief is my favorite fantasy character class. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are my favorite fantasy heroes. My definitive edition of Dungeons & Dragons is the Rules Cyclopedia, which prominently features Read More …

Race, Class and type in the evolution of D&D

Today’s familiar model of class in fantasy games works like this: Pick a race, determining base characteristics and/or available classes. Pick a class, determining the majority of your character’s abilities and advancement path. That’s the model Gary Gygax created for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the late 1970s. Although there have been variant models over Read More …

Guards! Guards!

Further thoughts on TSR’s code of ethics. This particular bit strikes me as vastly more important than it first appears: 3: AGENTS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT Agents of law enforcement (constables, policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions) should not be depicted in such a way as to create disrespect for current established authorities/social values. When Read More …

The Construction of Character Classes

Premise: a character class provides players with an interface to the game world and a place for their characters within it. (See yesterday’s post on classes.) There are a couple of major schema for constructing character classes. Most games use more than one. Class by Combat Role You separate characters by how they fight. This Read More …

Character Classes

Splats. Clans. Careers. Archetypes. Whatever. Comes down to this: I love character classes. A good class tells you something about a character’s relationship to the world. Where they come from, how they interact. There’s a lot of argument over what the “core” classes for Dungeons & Dragons are. For me, they’re Fighter, Thief and Magic Read More …