NESSUS SHIRT COMPANY
AD&D/OD&D/Maps/Etc.
October 04, 2012 by Jeffrey Beebe
Anyone who is familiar with my work (and I think there are six or seven of you out there) understands that a key component of the drawings--and a lot of the thought and organization behind the work--come from the language of the first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game. Henceforth, in this minor essay, the game with be referred to as 1st ed AD&D.

(Look at me: I streamlined that shit. You're welcome)

I played 1st ed AD&D from about 1980-1986. The amount of time I actual played was a small reflection of the amount of time I spent studying the materials--the Monster Manual, the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Masters Guide, the Greyhawk folio, etc. I soaked that stuff in, memorized it for no other reason than pure fascination. I understood that--with these materials--I could make something out of the the daydreams that kept me entirely checked our during school hours. The illustrations in these books, too, are/were hugely influential: David Trampier, Erol Otus, David C. Sutherland III . . . all of these guys crawled inside my brain.

I played 2nd ed AD&D from about 1992-1995 and was slightly less enchanted with the materials and certainly less enchanted with the illustrations. It was interesting to an extent but the number of supplements had increased tenfold from the original game. It was an impressive feat, but I felt this glut of extra material killed the open-ended, imaginative nature of the game. In 1995, I stopped playing because I moved from Indianapolis to Chicago and started trying my best (har) to lead an adult-type life. Many would say that I've failed in that regard, and. I probably wouldn't argue with them (for very long.) But in any case, I stopped gaming and I stopped following the developments with D&D as the game was purchased by Wizards of the Coast  in 1997 and was spun into 3rd and 4th editions. 

Online, I've recently discovered a substantial revival in playing what is known as OD&D, or original Dungeons & Dragons, a variant of the game--based on the original D&D booklet written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson--that dates back to the mid-70s. This OD&D revival has spawned number of new gaming systems based upon the original source material--these systems are lean and simplified, stripped of all of the extraneous crap that bogged down play in general and combat in particular. And almost all of them use a open game license which "grant[s] permission to modify, copy, and redistribute some of the content designed for the games, notably game mechanics." (Yes, I copied that from Wikipedia.) It does my little black heart good to see so many fertile brains at work, freed of any need to cleave to a standard orthodoxy. I love it. (But I don't love it enough to start gaming again. Sorry, Gandalf. I know this is upsetting.) 

All of that writing was to say a simple thing and to draw attention to how all of this stuff feeds the work I'm making now. This OD&D renaissance is championed by many worthy blogs but I'll only highlight one for now: James Maliszewski's excellent and frequently updated Grognardia; the postings on his OD&D campaign Dwimmermount are (or were as he's long longer running that game) quite fascinating. I'm singling out James's blog today because 1.) I frequently find his writing/musings to be inspirational toward my own work (and we appear to have starting playing at roughly the same time/age) and 2.) he happened to recently post something the other which was exactly what I was looking for:  multi-level mapping.

I've made mostly maps over the last few years. In the spring, I tackled the AD&D influence head on with a drawing of a dungeon map called the Lost Caverns of the Queen of Ropes. (The Queen of Ropes, of course, being just another avatar of the Empress of the Vast Nonsense.) It was a very traditional dungeon crawl map inspired directly by the G1-3, D1-3, and S4 module maps. But I was always fascinated more by the cross-section maps like the one above--they're no good for play ("They're more art than map" says James) but I'm not exactly designing a game here. Thanks to James--and In Places Deep's Evan Elkins who hipped me to Derinkuyu--I think I know what drawing is next in the queue.