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

CASTLE OLDSKULL – The Classic Dungeon Design Guide Book II by Kent David Kelly is one in a series of supplements for creating megadungeons and the direct sequel to Book I. The supplement is system-agnostic, although it is definitely influenced by Dungeons & Dragons and derived games, particularly older systems and retro-clones.

The supplement is available as a PDF from RPGNow for $4.99 but was purchased at the reduced price of $2.50. It can also be purchased as a Kindle ebook from Amazon. The PDF is the version reviewed and it has 406 pages. Of these, two are the front and rear covers, eight pages are the front matter, one page explains what the book is and isn’t, two pages are a description of the book’s contents, three pages are the Contents, two pages are About the Author, five pages are ads for other books and one page is blank.

CASTLE OLDSKULL - The Classic Dungeon Design Guide Book IIChapter 1 is the Introduction and states that the supplement assumes that the reader owns Book I and, although Book II can be used without Book I, it will be easier to have read it first. It says that Book I was largely conceptual in nature but Book II is intended to turn those ideas into reality.

Chapter 2: Quarters and Themes for Dungeon NPCs is about adding non-monsters to a dungeon. There are tables for populating dormitories with low or 0-level NPCs and for individual bedrooms with higher level and more powerful characters. There then follow titles for non-player characters for nineteen different classes. Most of the classes are typical ones but a few are more unusual. Each class has titles up to 15th level, with several different titles for each level. Each class also has an introduction on what such a class will be doing in a dungeon.

Chapter 3: Castle Oldskull Dungeon Mastery Design Tables is the final chapter in the book and consists of tables for creating various features in a dungeon. The elements of a dungeon that are covered in this section are caves, containers, corpses, doors, dungeon dressing, fountains, fungus, hideouts, laboratories, magical gateways, museums, prisoners, shrines, torture chambers and unusual rooms (which last are those that don’t really fit into the other categories). Each consists of multiple tables and most tables have multiple results.

CASTLE OLDSKULL – The Classic Dungeon Design Guide Book II in Review

The PDF is reasonably well bookmarked, with the chapters and major subsections linked, although it could have been improved by linking the tables and deeper subsections. The Contents is at the same level of detail and is also hyperlinked. Navigation is therefore decent but it could have been better.

The text, excluding the tables, maintains a single column layout and seemed largely free from errors, although there was a frequent fault with the tables themselves. All of the tables cover multiple pages and the column headings are repeated on each page. In some cases the headings are not at the top of the page, but are a row down.

There are quite a lot of illustrations, which all appear to be black and white, up to a full page in size, but these are all public domain images of one sort or another, primarily from now-deceased artists. Sometimes the layout of these images seems a bit erratic, such as where a page has an image taking up most of it with a fraction of a table at the bottom, when the other way around would have looked to have made more sense. In other cases, the images cause a table to cover more pages than it should because of how they are used. The layout is therefore a bit iffy. The amount of text in the book is less than might be expected from the page count, due to font size, tables and images, but the author does give the word count in the promotional blurb, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The book references The Book of Dungeon Traps and the Dungeon Delver Enhancer a number of times, as well as the first book in the series. The first book may be necessary but the other two definitely aren’t, although they will probably help. There is also Book III in the main series as well, but this isn’t referenced.

The tables are either d100 or d1000 in nature, although they rarely have either 100 or 1,000 entries in a single column. Many of the tables do have multiple columns for multiple different rolls, each of which adds a different detail. Many may also have multiple results in the same column for one roll.

The tables do provide a lot of different options, and at least in some cases it’s clear that research has gone into finding these options. Various asides in the book would make it clear that the author uses the material in his own campaign, so it is tried and tested. Some of the tables are useful for spur of the moment rolling whilst others need creating in advance.

The amount of detail in each result when rolled is usually only a handful of words, rather than a complete description. Multiple rolls will then need to be made to add other related options, then these will need putting together into a finished result. This will probably not appeal to GameMasters who want to roll on a table and get a definite result at the end of it.

As with the first book, this is more of a source of inspiration for creating elements for a dungeon. After any rolls are made, a GM will need to flesh them out for a usable result. Not every table needs to be used either; many GMs will be able to simply pick and choose which they need, and perhaps keep the book on hand for when the players zag instead of zig. Having said that, it would be easier to roll at least some things in advance and create lists of complete and finished options, rather than doing everything on the fly.

This is a decent resource for dungeon creation, although it does require GM input as well, and the navigation has improved over the first in the series, making it easy to use. CASTLE OLDSKULL – The Classic Dungeon Design Guide Book II  is probably not to every GM’s taste, but there are useful options in it and sources of ideas and inspiration, and it can be found by clicking here.

 

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