Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Review: D12 Monthly - Issue 1

: Russ from YumDM
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Engine: Edition Agnostic Dungeons & Dragons

D8 Monthly has been renamed to D12 Monthly. Issue #1 is the second offering in this series of free monthly zines. They've done a good job of establishing a format that works. It includes a couple of columns that we have seen in past issues

  • Corner Table provides one random encounter table to be used in game
  • Location, Location, Location gives you a short dungeon, town, or adventure site.

Issue #1 also offers quite a few more feature articles.

The feature articles in this issue are:

  • D8 Dungeon Generator a simple tool using d88 to stock a dungeon combined with guidelines derived from the five room dungeon concept to create fast and easy dungeons.
  • Leveling Your Encounters is an introduction to the two articles that follow it, suggesting how they can be combined to create a fast and easy encounter rolling method.
  • Encounter Distance is a simplified d6 table for determining encounter distance when rolling for wandering monsters.
  • What the Hell are the Monsters Doing? offers a simple random table for determining what monsters are up to.
  • Building a New Monster is advice on and an example of re-skinning and modifying an existing monster to create something new, and a discussion as to why a DM might wish to do so..
  • Building a Quick NPC builds on the map method of NPC design introduced an issue zero by adding random tables for motivation, appearance, and personality.

What I loved

Return to Dolfar

The Firststop Inn and the Quiss' Basement Dungeon build upon the setting that was established in issue #0, the small town of Dolfar. It both adds new locations and new PCS to the town, and gives us an adventure location, villainous assistant, and five-room dungeon that player characters can explore in the town, built around an NPC introduced in issue #0.

This is a clever way to write the Zine. It means that we have a reason to keep coming back, and if Russ keeps developing related locations, we have a a good chunk of a campaign contained in the pages of the zine by the end of the year. It also allows Russ to have a purpose for the examples and content that he includes in the Zine. 

Expanding the MAP Method 

I really enjoyed the MAP method, and I am glad we are revisiting it. I think as a tool it has a lot of potential. I might recommend that Russ creates a very short version of it that can be fit in a sidebar that takes up no more than a quarter of a column that can be reproduced in each of his future editions to remind his readers of the format. I would like to see it continue to be used and expanded on.

The Simplified  Encounter Distance 

Determining encountered distance in BECMI- or Advanced- Dungeons & Dragons is a pain in the behind. There is a reason why a lot of role-playing games gloss over it. It requires rolling on multiple tables. This tool shortens it to a simple d6 table that uses a concept similar to the zones we see in games like ICRPG Core 2e or Tiny Dungeon 2e. I personally might have weighted the table using 2d4 so that encounters that only are trace evidence of the monster, or ones where the monster literally lands on the PC are extraordinarily rare compared to encountering each other at range.

Dungeon Generator Table 

The dungeon generator system has a pretty good d88 table that gives you a prompt on how to determine what kind of encounter player characters will run into. When you add the constraints of the dungeons theme and the player characters' level, a description like "helpful animal," "dead monster," or "disgusting information" is all you really need to help you choose an encounter fairly quickly.

Monster Motivations 

I have always found it really helpful to have some table to determine what a monster is up to when it is encountered. It is one of the things I really enjoyed about Jacob Hurst's Hot Springs Island setting. His encounter tables offer a creatures motivations for being there when the encounter is rolled. The method of rolling encounters suggested in leveling up your encounters definitely echoes some of the best practices in hsi.

Growth points

Linear Dungeon Structure 

I make heavy use of the five-room dungeon structure when planning games. However, I try my best to avoid making things too linear. I like to use some of the alternate five room dungeon structures described here on Gnome Stew. Or double up on some encounters to create multiple routes with different puzzle and trap encounters.

I don't find a linear series of rooms to be a terribly appealing way to design a dungeon. But, this advice is easily disregarded and the rest of the tool it's very useful.

Random NPC Tables are Too Small 

3D8 offers a lot of possible combinations. However, I find that when it comes to randomly generating NPCs the more options the better. You can only encounter so many NPCs with a missing digit or bad body odor before it becomes repetitive.

I might have liked to have seen each of these tables be a little larger, possibly a d12, d20 or d44, although I respect that there is limited space in a Zine . 

When it comes to this kind of random table, they're only as good as the amount of variety they offer. As is, I still love the MAP method, and I think the idea of randomizing it is really cool. I will probably adapt this tool by adding expanded tables for myself.

The Five-Room Dungeon Works Because of its Archetypal Encounters 

One of the things I like about the five-room dungeon is that it doesn't just give you a number of encounters, it gives you a variety of styles of encounter to work with. The combination of an entrance with guardian, a trap or trick, a role-playing or puzzle encounter, a climax, and then a revelation or reward gives you a dungeon that feels like it progresses. It touches on a number of different styles of play. And it makes it look like it is purpose designed.

Often one can forgive the five room dungeon if it is linear because it feels well thought-out. Rather than a string of monster encounters at loosely fit together.

A dungeon with five rooms with randomly structured encounters lacks that same sense of depth, complexity, and progression. I don't object to the idea of randomizing a five room dungeon. It might be better accomplished by having five tables for the five archetypal encounters. Maybe that's something I will create, and possibly offer to a future issue of the zine.

That's not to say this is a bad tool. It does a great job of what it needs to do, which is put something together fast. I can certainly see writing a script based on this, or grabbing it in a dice rolling program, and then calling a bio break to use it if my players went somewhere I didn't expect.


I like where D12 Monthly is going. We are simultaneously seeing a setting being developed and seeing a bunch of shortcuts, tools, and solid advice on planning and running a game that is used to build it up. It is a smart and engaging approach.

This issue definitely has offered some really useful tools, or the jumping off point for creating ones of your own. I certainly don't think there's anything in this book that I wouldn't consider using. I'm hoping that at the end of the year we will see a D12 Monthly book of dirty DM tricks, compiling all the useful pieces of advice and tools in a refined and community-tested format. I think we would see a book really worth buying!

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