A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement CASTLE OLDSKULL – Classic Dungeon Design Guide Book III

CASTLE OLDSKULL – Classic Dungeon Design Guide Book III by Kent David Kelly is the third in the main series of guides for designing dungeons. It does recommend that both Book I and Book II are read and owned first, as this volume refers to and elaborates on material from the other two books, especially Book I and the dungeon rooms.

The supplement is available as a PDF from RPGNow for $3.74 but was purchased at the reduced price of $0.99. This is a 386 page bookmarked PDF. Two pages are the colour front and rear covers, twelve pages are the front matter, three pages are the Contents, two pages are About the Author and five pages are ads for other books.

Chapter 1 is essentially a brief introduction, explaining why the supplement was created, which was mostly to elaborate on the room descriptions from Book I, explaining what they were, and what you will find in the book, which is descriptions of rooms but not contents.

CASTLE OLDSKULL - Classic Dungeon Design Guide Book IIIChapter 2 is an alphabetical list of rooms from A to Z, divided into each letter (but nothing for Y), called the labyrinth lexicon. It starts with instructions on how to use it and how to read the columns of the ensuing tables, as well as notes on the original use of a room as compared to its current use.

Each letter’s section starts with a small extract from a public domain work with a room beginning with the appropriate letter highlighted. Although it is divided into different letters, the entire book is a d1000 table. There are six different columns for Cave System, Dungeon, Manor House, Stronghold, Temple and Tomb. Not every room is considered to be suitable for every type, so doesn’t fall into every result. This is followed by a column giving a name of the room type, what sizes the room is found in (five, from tiny to huge; the sizes are explained in the earlier section) and a description of what it is, which can be helpful (for example, a buttery is not what you might think) and was one reason why this book was assembled.

There are different sizes of the same room type as well as types with slightly different names and others that are essentially the same room type but the name is from another culture, such as Norse, Egyptian or Akkadian to name a few. In the last case the room is essentially identical but it is considered to have that theme. As a result there are probably less rooms described than might be thought.

Next in this chapter is some advice on making sense of results that otherwise don’t fit, rather than simply discarding results. Instead, consider such as hidden rooms, past use versus present and simply handwaving it as magic.

Concluding Chapter 2 are three small examples created using random rolls; a cave system, a dungeon and a manor house. The author uses the rolls to assemble a pretty logical finished construct.

Chapter 3: Realistic Floor Plans and Level Layouts covers real life cave systems, dungeons, manor houses, strongholds, temples and tombs. Each has the different types and the room arrangement discussed, which includes how buildings are put together, with references to real world examples, sometimes including maps but many of these are under copyright and suitable searches to find them are mentioned, as are specific names. Most cases point out that real world examples tend to have very little in common with the fantasy role playing game examples. Probably due to the lack of magic and monsters in the real world.

Appendix A: Generating Simple Random Room Contents is not really about what things are in a room, as in physical items, but more different uses. There is a d100 list of different things such as traps (which references The Book of Dungeon Traps), monster lairs, treasure etc. and then these results are elaborated on.

Appendix B: 333 Rooms of Madness is another d1000 table, although not with 100 results, of what are essentially room names.

CASTLE OLDSKULL – Classic Dungeon Design Guide Book III in Review

The PDF is well bookmarked with major and minor sections linked and the Contents is hyperlinked as well. Navigation is therefore above average and much better than was seen in Book I.

The text maintains a single column layout, except for the tables (which is admittedly the majority of the book) and was almost entirely error free, quite impressive for the word count. There are a number of illustrations, ranging from a fancy letter at the beginning of each letter of the lexicon to full page illustrations. Most of the illustrations, which range up to full page in size, are in black and white, with a few colour, and are public domain work. There are also a few public domain floor plans as well.

The layout of the illustrations is a bit erratic though. They often appear to be plonked seemingly at random, for example being in the middle of a page with parts of a table above and below them. At the end of a table section would make sense; dividing it up into needless pieces does not. The column headers of the tables are also not always logically placed, often appearing partway down a page instead of at the top. The layout could have done with improving on.

What this book is is a list of many different rooms with names and brief descriptions. This can be a source of inspiration but it will require work to use. It isn’t for any GameMaster who wants something ready to run or use. It definitely requires a lot of work fleshing things out, which may or may not appeal. It does appear to have been based on extensive research and there is quite a lot of useful information in it (although in some ways there is a lot of duplicate content as a room type appears in several different places under different sizes and names; this also may or may not appeal).

Whether or not this supplement is any use will depend on the GM in question. GMs who are happy to elaborate on the material provided and use it to help create their own dungeons – and not just dungeons either – will find this to be a useful collection of material that has been assembled in one place. GMs who prefer having stuff that is ready to use from the start will find it less useful. However, it is frequently available so cheaply that is simply worth getting and reading. CASTLE OLDSKULL – Classic Dungeon Design Guide Book III can be found by clicking here.

 

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