Monday, January 16, 2017

Adventures Dark & Deep Redux

Some time ago I covered a promising new game called Adventures Dark & Deep by Joseph Bloch of Greyhawk Grognard fame. This post is a reboot of that post in light of my recent discussion on the magic that was AD&D. In that post I saw in Bloch's AD&D a true Gygaxian Legacy. I still feel that way. But the reason I want to revisit the game today is to consider if it can reach our goal of the true and living spirit that is AD&D.

Now I'm sure that this doesn't matter a hill of beans to Mr. Bloch. Unlike me he hasn't wandered all over gaming creation in the past ten years or more. He went on to found a company BRW Games, finish his work on AD&D and produce numerous expansions, supplements and the like, attend conventions, market his product and slowly build a community that would support it. All this in addition to his loving tribute to Greyhawk and his continuing work thereon. And my estimation one way or the other is not likely to slow his roll in the great direction he has been heading since then. But when when we're talking about AD&D magic we can't go far without reckoning with Joseph's work and what he has accomplished. Let us then take each of our criteria in turn and see where it takes us

First, as we said, the game should be a true AD&D game.

I would really urge you to read my old post on Joseph's AD&D to get the backstory, but I'll summarize here. Back then I was entertaining a thought experiment on what Gary Gygax would have done with a second edition of AD&D had he been allowed to create it. We all know he was not a part of the redesign of 2e in any significant way, as he was being sidelined and eventually would be shoved out of the company. However, he was actively thinking about it and had dropped a few clues as to what he might change should he get the chance. As I was researching these clues I came across a post by Joseph Bloch on this very topic. Turns out Mr. Bloch had thought about this long before I did and had already compiled the research. Not only that, he was already writing his own version of the edition that "might have been." A game he called Adventures Dark & Deep ~ nice. 

As a result what we have is the original AD&D with a few updates. The Adventures Dark & Deep system is essentially AD&D, and unlike Hackmaster it is produced with absolute sincerity and fidelity to the original. Bloch's game is in fact a very close model of what Gary might have done had he had the chance--at least it seems to me that it is, only Gary could say for sure. So, a system that is clearly AD&D? Check, in spades.

Second, a company that can take the place of TSR?

Here, by guess and by golly, I am going to give a hesitant yes and no. First of all most game design companies today have learned from TSR's mistakes and, as mentioned previously, are unlikely to recreate the raw, stumbling days of gaming's infancy. What I'm saying is the BRW is a conservative, small company, mostly made up of contributors as the opportunity presents itself. Slow and steady, as they say. They all seem to be nice people aimed at trying to simply stay productive and creative, not become millionaires. Thus they aren't quite like TSR, but they have something else very powerful going for them. Greyhawk. 

With Joseph's work as Greyhawk Grognard and his expansive and deep knowledge of that game world he brings something to the effort that makes up for the hard edged TSR ethos. But the fact is BRW is the final word as regards Adventures Dark & Deep and its associated supplements and rules. It is their game, they control it and any who play know that. They aren't opposed to people making stuff up for their campaigns, and even give guidelines in their bestiary has to how to accomplish that. Who knows? They might even welcome the interest of others putting their stuff out there to build interest in the game--but take that up with them, don't take my word for it. And one can forgive the fact that these are gamers not only with lives, but careers outside of gaming, so for a part time effort they've accomplished a lot in the right direction. 

So, Greyhawk and a decently supported and well controlled version of AD&D? Wow, I'm becoming impressed. It's thin, but it's developing. And though Mr. Bloch's presence is steady on his Greyhawk Grognard blog, BRW and production was quiet during 2016. As an aside there are some projects in the works to support GH even more thoroughly, but I'm not sure where those stand just now. Likely still since the IP for GH is still unavailable. 

Third: A community shaped by the game and company?

This is the area where the work continues. Things move slowly in the indie gaming world, and though Adventures Dark & Deep does have its supporters it is a small group. The online presence is soft, and mostly centered on Joseph's continued presence on Greyhawk Grognard. 

So where does that leave us in terms of Adventures Dark & Deep fulfilling our order? Well, I feel like he has certainly made a good effort in that direction. Possibly enough to make a person like myself jump on board and support those efforts. But I also think the road is a hard one. The idea of building up the game in the way I am talking about is a Herculean task--possibly even Sisyphean.

Which, although I am embarrassed to ask myself--what am I going to do about it? At least Joseph got his project off the ground. I could have chosen to help him back then, but didn't. Sure, I covered it in a blog post? (Actually the club I ran almost selected Adventures Dark & Deep as our preferred game and I did enter into a discussion with Joseph about the possibilities. But in the end we didn't and it didn't go anywhere.) But what did I do tangibly. And I ask myself again: What can I tangibly do? 

I mean, it's fine to sit here in front of my computer and pontificate about gaming and editions and what is and what isn't this or that--but what the hell am I doing about it? If I don't think the magic is there, then maybe it's time to weave some magic. I sort of used to think that my blog was a part of the effort, part of the fight to reclaim the old school and perhaps make some sort of difference. At least a voice in the crowd. However, in the end, if that's all I do, waiting around for someone to do someone else do do something ... After all, here I am, still. At least Joseph got out there, like Kenzer did and actually accomplished something. There's going to come a day when my game books are just someone else's inheritance, or GoodWill donation. And what will I have left behind?

What will I have left behind?