Last night we played our second session of Dwimmermount. We're not going to play it again.
Here's the thing--as a player, I want my character to kick some ass, be awesome, and have a tale to tell back at the tavern so he can get some action with the serving wenches. You know, Conan, or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser style. That to me is the motivation to play an adventurer.
Dwimmermount, at least the first level that we played, provided me with no chance for any of that.
I know it wasn't the players or the DM, because we've played together in different settings under different rule sets and have achieved all of that awesomeness. Erik Tenkar, of Tenkar's Tavern, ran Dwimmermount as written, which is what we all wanted of him. He's a great DM. He has run games full of awesome in the past. Dwimmermount just didn't come through as a fun environment.
Why? Let me count the ways...
Way too many empty rooms. Boring. There's a reason no one uses Gygax's rule of 1/3 of the rooms ought to be empty and boring as shit anymore.
Rooms with stuff that on its surface looks interesting, but in the end is just a needless distraction that doesn't lead to anything cool. Ever. Not even once in a while. There was one room with ghosts around a table. They gave no clues to greater mysteries, they provided no combat opportunities, they were nothing but a waste of time. We all just said "Eh, whatever," and moved along. How pathetic is it that our level of apathy towards the mystery of the dungeon is such that we just ignore a room full of ghosts around a table?
There was a room with half dozen balloons. No one is stupid enough to go into such a room, so we shot them from outside. One exploded and caused the others to explode. Would have done damage had we been in there. Again, who would be stupid enough to be in there?
There was another room where nothing aged. Why? Who placed it there? Why place such a massive investment of magical energy (time stop being a 9th level spell) into a room with not a goddamned thing in it worth anything? At the end I just wanted to smash everything in the room out of frustration.
Then, random rooms with stuff in it for no reason. In one room, in a corner, is a bag with 1000 gp. Why? Empty otherwise, except for the orcs we drove off. Orcs, with 1000 gp. Exactly 1000 gp. It's a very exact dungeon. Another room had debris in it. After killing the rats in it, we spent 30 minutes looking thru rat shit and found 2000 cp. Why? Oh, and there was also some other crap like a pin and a comb worth some money.
Did I mention that between all these rooms were a never ending stream of empty useless rooms, filled with debris whose sole boring purpose was that if you searched them you would attract wandering monsters?
And then we come to a door with a poison trap, save or die. He died. Well, he had 30 minutes to die, so he did what any adventurer would want to do, he tried to go out in a blaze of glory, so that he didn't feel that all the events leading up to his death weren't the biggest waste of time ever. He ran forward, triggering every trap, taking a swing at everything he saw, until he was dead.
Truthfully, I wanted to follow him into death--the dungeon was that boring.
Now, could you imagine sitting around the bar with your fellow companions, nursing your grievous rat bite wounds, chugging a beer and telling your story of badassness to the other patrons and adventurers and serving wenches in your never ending quest for fame or glory as an adventurer?
"And then we found another room! And it had nothing in it! And another! And another! And another! And then we fought rats! Big Rats! With Big Teeth! Here, look at the wound in my ankle! And I searched through the ratshit for half an hour and found all these coins! Apparently rats can count well, because there were exactly 2000 of them. And a fancy comb for my Lady!"
"What, you want me to use a comb that's been covered in rat shit for decades? What kind of cheap whore do you think I am! Take your pissy comb and rat-shit covered hands somewhere else! And by the way, you stink like a dead rat too!" as she pours the beer in his lap.
Where's the grand tale of adventure in that? Would it make a good movie? Would you pay eight bucks to see it on the big screen? Did we do anything awesome? Did we encounter weird ass shit and survive by the skin of our teeth, using our wits and courage to overcome the obstacles? Was there at any point an opportunity or a need to be creative with the stuff in the environment to further our ends? Was the environment itself creative and mysterious, leaving us a with a sense of awe and wonder? Did it make us want to explore further? Did it open up further layers of a mystery?
Or did we just push and pull at meaningless torch sconces that didn't move, hoping for a secret door and an end to the boredom, as we tripped over yet another empty crate in yet another empty room and attracted yet another 1d6 orcs armed with rusty shortswords carrying 3-6 sp each ?
Just make it cool, man.
Make every dungeon something that no matter who DM's it, the players and their characters have a cool story to tell the next day. I mean, most of us do mind-numbing meaningless boring shit from 8-6 every day. At night, we roll the dice and want an escape into something cooler than our cubicles. Just give that to people.
I'm just glad I didn't invest in the Kickstarter.