Looking back, the prime days of OSR lie now a decade behind us, and while a number of people are still around, occasionally sharing some new thought or insight every couple of months, very little of any meaningful significance is added to the discourse of B/X and AD&D that hasn’t been thoroughly examined years ago.
But one thing still does stand out that really brings something new (back) to the table that has significant value to help understanding how those old games tick and how you can make them really work without existing experience going back to the 80s. Which is Gus L’s “new” site All Dead Generations. This is an excellent resource I never really see mentioned anywhere.
When I finished my D&D 5th edition campaign a year ago, one of the realizations that I gained from it was that I just didn’t get the concept of dungeons. What a dungeon is is obvious, but I never understood how going from room to room filled with monsters and random crack-wizard puzzle-devices was supposed to be fun for anyone involved. As someone who got into D&D in the last days of 2nd edition, when the 90s Metaplot craze was still in full swing, fighting monsters in rooms never seemed like something that contributes to the plot of an adventure or a campaign. And it doesn’t. That’s one of the key things to take away from the many long pages of All Dead Generations. Thinking about a plot when going into a dungeon to explore is already the completely wrong approach. I never figured out how to make it work in 20 years, because that’s never how it was supposed to work. Dungeons & Dragons under WotC has been a cargo cult game, that emulates mechanics from the 70s and early 80s because they’ve seen these things being a major part of D&D, but with no apparent understanding of what they are for and how they work.
All Dead Generations has been a massive eye opener for me and got me super excited about an all dungeon crawl campaign just after I had given up on using dungeons in my games entirely. It’s a fantastic read for anyone who wants to understand how B/X is actually supposed to be played. And yet, nobody seems to be talking about it. I guess partly because there are few people still around who could talk about it, but to do so they’d also need to hear about it in the first place.
So here’s a big shout out to Gus. Which is a bit weird from a marginal nobody like me to one of the well known big guys of oldschool RPGs, but it is what it is. Go check out All Dead Generations.
8 thoughts on “Why do I never see links to All Dead Generations?”
I really enjoy Gus’ previous writing, but I suspect that the quixotic attempt to explain classic dungeon crawl play in academic fashion gets few links because it targets a very narrow audience (even for OSR RPG blogging). You’d have to be adjacent to that RPG blogging scene (in order to find All Dead Generations in the first place), be interested in that style of play but unfamiliar with successful versions of it, and then be willing to wade through pages of dry, textbook-like prose. If you’re not in the exact center of that venn diagram, then I think reactions are likely to range from “yeah man, I get it” to “I’m not reading all that”.
Thanks for the shout out again. I suspect TK is right about the length and tone of ADG driving away readers, but it’s a blog with a limited purpose, and at time intentionally tedious tone, so I’m cool with a low profile. Some of the ideas and terminology seems to catch on – though likey others are just coming to the same conclusions.
I’m glad it helped you figure out how to enjoy dungeons though, and hope it will continue to reach similar folks who are looking for the same kind of insight.
I might have been the right person, coming across the site at the right time, having tried to crack that particular nut for months and seeing no way to do it. (I actually don’t recall how I found it.) Hanging out a lot on the Alexandrian and MCDM Discords, there’s always a few people wondering about the same questions every couple of weeks. And recently I’ve seen a lot of hype for the rerelease of Hero Quest, which is basically Baby’s First Dungeon Crawl. I think there is an audience for the information. Maybe some day make a pocket guide that condenses the key ideas down to a few pages? That might be more accessible for people curious about it, but not yet committed to really dig into it.
I think a pocket guide in more natural language would be a good idea, and if Gus or someone else ever did make one in the future then I imagine that his having written so much out longform first would prove very helpful.
I’ve certainly considered it, and lately I’m trying to slip more maxims into ADG pieces, but I’m leery of primers, intro and such. There’s already quite a few, most are pretty good, but they don’t really seem to help people much.
Instead they tend to be necessarily reductive, breaking a play style down into a few slogans: “Rulings not rules”, “Combat if a fail state” and so on. These may be on point, mostly are, but looking at people coming from other playstyle and trying to decode them it also seems like they cause more confusion then anything.
I started ADG because I was trying to understand why 5E didn’t work for running B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, and if I could make it work. I couldn’t, but I did learn a lot about how OD&D works vs. 5E. My goal has been to help people explore that and understand how to get a game they want — a prescriptive set of procedures might help people run a dungeon crawl, but it doesn’t really explain it. Plus as mentioned, there’s plenty of people telling you what to do to be the ULTIMATE 100% XTREME DM already. I hate them all and can’t follow that path.
I’m currently running Tomb Robbers of the Crystal Frontier for my players, and I think all that advice and those maxims come to life at the table with this mega-evocative adventure. I’m a long time dungeon-doubter, but this is the first time myself and my players are all-in, vibing on the OSR delving experience. So yeah, another round of thanks to Gus L.
Glad you are finding it useful, I’m alway happy to hear people are using my work. If you have any specific thoughts feel free to email me, and the same if you are interested in playtesting Crystal Coast (which may be a while, but is in the works). It’s another dungeon (well ideally two) set in a small point-crawl sandbox.