Monday, 1 March 2010

The Dungeon Alphabet


I've finally received my copy of Michael Curtis' The Dungeon Alphabet from Goodman Games, via Paizo (who had a dollar-off deal going). That dropped the price from $9.99 to $8.99, and then postage to NZ took it right back up and over again.

I had to wait quite a while for it. The initial print-run wasn't nearly large enough to meet the demand, which is no doubt gratifying to Mike Curtis and Goodman Games, but it was bloody annoying to me -- Paizo had it on back-order for about a month. I have to say though, once they got it back in stock, it got to me within a week or so.

It's a slender 48-page hardback of pretty standard gaming-book dimensions (I assume that's letter-size), with a colour cover by Erol Otus and liberally illustrated in black & white within by a range of artists (including my new favourite RPG artist, Pete Mullen, who ascends to the heavens and walks with the gods). The design and layout is good; I like good-quality black & white illustration, and we see all too little of it these days. The binding is a pretty standard glued-signature hardback, and the paper stock used is heavy and bright white; it feels good, but I guess only time will tell just how good the binding is.

There is one thing about the design that I HATE HATE HATE: Goodman Games have printed in a ghastly promotional price-label right there on the front. I thought at first it was a sticker that I could peel off, but no -- that abomination is going to be there for the life of the book. For shame, Goodman Games. What the hell were you thinking? If I were Erol Otus, I'd be really pissed off at having that plastered on top of my work. Hell, I'm pissed off enough as it is, and I just have to look at it.

The content consists of an alphabetic list of Dungeon Stuff, starting with A for Altars, B for Books, C for Caves and so on. Each entry is illustrated, and begins with a brief examination of the relative dungeon tropes. It then goes on to provide a table for random determination of the thing, whatever it may be. The tables are generally pretty good; some will be less useful than others, but overall they're above average in usefulness for a Dungeon Builder who likes things Old School and Dungeony.

Michael Curtis has a pleasantly readable style, and a fertile imagination which he shares with us through this book. He can be justifiably proud about this work (even in spite of the Label of Beelzebub, to which I refer above). I'd happily recommend it for anybody with an interest in Old School gaming -- even if you're not a dungeon builder, it's a fun read. I really have to congratulate the illustrators; I'd buy this for the pictures alone (in fact, I mostly did). For ten bucks or thereabouts, it's a bargain.