Do any of you have a gaming shelf? How about a gaming wall? Or even in the case of our fearless leader John O’Neill a ‘Cave of Wonders’ filled with literally thousands of RPGs and games?
Well if you do, then you’ll fully understand the feeling you get when you look at those shelves and feel a mix of nostalgia for times lost, and regret for games never played. With all those books, from so many companies and editions of each title, I couldn’t help wonder at what I missed, especially after the news that WotC is now in production of a 5th Edition of D&D.
Still, I always want to give folks an update on some older material, in this case 2E, even if I’m three and a half editions behind the curve. Today’s topic, the 2E AD&D ‘monster’ that is the Dragon Mountain Boxed Set. This thing is huge, and from what I can see epic, but I’ve always found it so daunting that I’ve yet to actually play it. I think I’ve used pieces in other campaigns over the years, but never as a whole.
I have to wonder if anyone else out there ever had this issue, or ever played the full box. It seems like a pretty well thought out campaign, and I have to admit that the concept of a full 2E dungeon crawl where the main obstacle to the characters are Kobolds always kept me pleasantly intrigued.
In all I counted out 12 Kobold clans in the three volumes inside the box, and you almost need a road map to understand the relationships between them. There are also sixteen player handouts, eight of the old monstrous compendium sheets, 12 full color reference cards, a full set of counters for miniature play, and six, count them SIX full-color fold out maps!
Seriously, this bad-boy isn’t just a stand-alone campaign, it’s a game in itself. It almost reminds me of a board game, you know like one of those $80 Fantasy Flight boxes people are so fond of these days with only more role-playing involved.
Because its so massive, there’s a certain sadness whenever I break this box out. Something inside me always feels less than complete because I never got to experience it full on. That is the burden of the DM I guess, the fact that if you buy something truly awesome, and often times expensive, the onus falls on you to run it.
To me, I always wanted to play this box, not DM it, and therefore it never came to pass. I think I foisted it on Mark [you know Mark, my go to DM for 30 years] once back in about 1995, but we ended up doing other things and it finally found its way back into my collection as dejected as ever.
Years later, probably 2003 I tried to run it myself, even cut out various player handouts done on incredible ‘aged’ and yellowed paper, but during a session at the campaigns beginning one of the players had a total meltdown and threw everyone out of the house. Seriously! After that, I retired Dragon Mountain for good, wondering if there was perhaps a curse on it after all.
Artistically, I remember first seeing Dragon Mountain at a Diamond distributors convention in Atlanta in probably 1992 and was blown away by the cover. The artist formerly known as Paul Jaquays did the cover for this baby, and I think it is hands down his/her best work at TSR.
The interior work is also an intriguing addition to the D&D pantheon as well because its the very first bulk work artist Tony DiTerlizzi ever did for the company. This black and white art was a kind of precursor to his fantastic breakout performance on Planescape just a couple of years later.
DiTerlizzi isn’t as polished here as though he’s still seeking his true style, but there are flashes of pure talent that rise to the top. As I flipped through his treatment I can’t help but see a looming deadline in 95% of the work, but for the remaining 5% there is a solid frame that absolutely sings of what Tony would become in later years.
Curse or no, the story is sound, the plot worthy, and the art a great contribution to the pantheon of D&D lore. Oddly, I’d still love to give this baby another go, yes even if I have to run it! Well, perhaps in 2012… are there any Los Angeles players out there that promise not to throw me out of their house if I give it a shot?