This may be a little off putting, but recently I picked up a product called The Dungeon Alphabet that is apparently being revelled by the OSR crowd – probably due to it’s strictly subterranean contents and hand drawn B&W artwork. Anything even slightly reminiscent of the ‘good old days’ brings these folks about in droves. As long as it’s not a product made by those unscrupulous evildoers over at Wizards of the Coast, in which case it does as well but for all the wrong reasons. For once I’m agreeing with a majority of the OSR (and non) crowd when I relay the sentiment that this book is awesome.
The Dungeon Alphabet is devoid of the grognardial undertones that some of the more independent whitebox-centric publications can carry. It’s completely version neutral and is a great tool for fleshing out dungeons, especially if you’re aiming towards an old school D&D feel; or just need some flavorful ideas for your dungeon dressings. Make no mistake this is a book entirely of fluff and random d6 / d20 tables and charts; it’s a fantastic resource for a DM of any fantasy RPG.
After the foreword written by Zeb Cook, The Dungeons Alphabet amounts to roughly 45 pages of awesomeness. In case you were wondering it is written in the format of “A is for Altars, B is for Books” and so on, it works quite well and makes it a fun read through. If you don’t plan on using a single idea from its pages for 5$ it’s a pretty good deal.
My one complaint with the book may be irrelevant to some but here it is: towards the end of the alphabet we have the letters Y and Z, where Y is for Yellow and Z is for “Zowie”. The entry for Y explains how to use an otherwise cheery color to add decay and rot to your dungeons – basically a ton of things you can flavor ‘yellow’ into, I found…eh…a bit weak.
As far as “Z is for “Zowie” goes – I’m not really sure what the hell to say about this one, does anyone really use the word “Zowie”? The Muppet Babies? Or just a writer trying to finish a book about dungeons that was trying to avoid using “Z is for “Zombies” because it seem be predictable? Either way, the author could have cut the “U is for Undead” and made it “U is for Unseen” or “Unexpected” and just used Zombie. The entry for Zowie details the “grandiose, memorable, and breathtaking” which is fine if the random d20 table below didn’t include things like “The Tomb of a dead demi-God” along with “Rusting remains of a 57 Chevy”.
The last two entries are weak there are 24 others that more than make up for them. I found the entry for books to be quite useful; I have never really known how to “fill” my detailed encounter areas with bookshelves. With 20 different properties for books and 100 different random titles it wont be a problem again. Another great entry is “G is for Gold”, and twenty different forms of it (other than coin) to be exact. ”N is for “No Stone Unturned” gives lots of great ideas on places to hide things, as is “I is for Inscriptions”, ”X is for Xenophobia” and of course “T is for Traps” rounding out my list of favorites.
A lot of the things I’ve mentioned covered in this book may seem trite or obvious but this book is packed to the brim with flavor, fluff, seeds for a lot of great ideas, and some neat artwork to boot. It could surely aid in any DM in his/her next dungeon or perhaps even world building endeavor. If you’re also a fan of random dungeon generation then this book is definitely a double whammy. So all in all, If you’ve got 5$ burning a hole in your pocket, or if you’re like me and need a glimpse of classic D&D from before your time then grab a copy of The Dungeon Alphabet by Goodman Games. If you have questions, feel free to use the comments section below! (Comments are okay too!)
Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Jerry resides in the placid cornfields of Indiana with his Wife and 2 goblinoid minions. His geek credentials sport a Masters in Video Gameology and Computer Geekery. His obsession with D&D started by spending an inconceivable number of hours playing Baldurs Gate and the rest is history. Outside of the gaming world he's an IT Professional & Social Media guy, budding writer, gaming advocate and wannabe designer. You can visit him over at www.dreadgazebo.net or follow him on twitter (@DreadGazeebo)