I bought the deluxe version, and it's so big and there's so much in it, that I'm still trying to wrap my head around what exactly this is and how I want to use it.
The archive is sort of like if you digitized all your handwritten notes and maps from your first years of playing D&D. Actually, not "sort of like", that's just what it is. There are hundreds of hand-drawn maps, which are messy and fascinating. There are pages of sometimes understandable notes and scribbles. Then there's about 20 pp of stuff on the Lost City of Elders, for instance, of which I started a speculative thread here on Canonfire last year, not having any idea this was going to be released.
It's all very messy, stream-of-consciousness, endlessly interesting, sometimes incomprehensible, sometimes revelatory. There are names of 5 heretofore unknown Greyhawk demigods that Robilar didn't release when the 9 got out.
With the exception of the (extremely creative, unique, and poorly organized) Sunken City adventure, nothing here could really be run without a ton of DM work. But as a bottomless well on inspiration, it's great. It's great just for the maps of El Raja Key which I shall certainly use for the undetailed levels of Maure Castle.
Anyway, I'm still digesting all this. Who else has this? What do others think about it?
(My recommendation would be that, unless you're a serious hardcore collector, the standard edition is all you really want.)
Joined: Jun 29, 2001 Posts: 1226 Location: Wichita, KS, USA
Posted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 6:19 pm Post subject:
Here are my first impressions of the archive, which arrived in the mail over the weekend:
The DVD Archive contains 284 lines in the Table of Contents, but several of those are not content-related (legal, using the archive, credits, etc.), and there are several layers in the menu for navigation (some of which have introductory text associated with them, others of which don't). So, there are ~260 distinct pieces of content (that’s an estimate, I haven’t counted the individual content titles).
The Archive content is navigated through an .html interface with a cascading menu, or through the TOC which displays all of the menu levels (as if the cascading menus were all open). When a piece of content includes multiple pages of scans, the content is navigated through using small thumbnail images broken into paging groups (page 1 of thumbnails displays 4 thumbnail images, pag2 includes next 4, etc.). All of the pieces of content have at least a minimal text description, and some are quite substantive (8+ paragraphs long). Most are shorter, with 2-3 short paragraphs of descriptive text about the content. When a thumbnail is clicked on, the content’s scanned image opens below the thumbnails and content introductory text. You can click on the image to see it full-size as well. All of the content presented is in scanned form, whether it was originally a map, a handwritten key or notes page, or a typed or printed document. The Archive does not include any transcripts or OCR’d text. The content scans are quite good quality, and the .html interface itself is quick and easy to use (unlike the old Dragon Archive CD Archive).
The content itself includes a broad selection of content drawn primarily from Kuntz’s Greyhawk and Kalibruhn works, with a few pieces of content from the pre-D&D era (including Kuntz’s original write-up of his “City of the Gods” adventure summary from Oerth Journal #7). Much of the Greyhawk and Kalibruhn content includes maps (sometimes with keys, but more often without especially for the levels of Castle Greyhawk and El Raja Key). Most map/key content items are 2-4 pages long, but some are substantially longer: the Lost City of the Elders includes 68 content thumbnails for huge maps, handwritten manuscript keys/notes, typescript pages, and original artwork; the Kalibruhn Blackstar novel draft/notes are 17 pages long; the Greyhawk Pit of Geburah adventure (referenced in the original folio and boxed sets as an evil sleeping beneath the depths of the Drachensgrab Mountains) contains 41 pages of maps, manuscript and types keys/notes, pregen PCs, sketches, etc., in addition to its 2 page historical commentary introduction.
The K1 Sunken City adventure included with the Standard+ DVD Archive purchases is a short 4.5”x7.5” booklet. I’ve flipped through it, but not read it yet. It has a detached cover, is staple-bound, and is 40 pages long (the Deluxe and Collector printings of the Sunken City include an additional 1000 words or so). You need to use the maps from the Archive to run the adventure.
A word of warning/caveat to my impressions above: I've had access to most of the files and information in the DVD Archive for several years (and in some cases, decades), and I certainly think it's a great trove of information about Greyhawk, Kalibruhn, and Rob's many works over the years, but I don't know that I can really view it through "fresh" eyes. For example, among the 24 distinct levels/keys of Castle Greyhawk and El Raja Key presented in the archive, the only one that’s new to me is Castle Greyhawk’s Level 5 Sealed Tomb Level map, along with the CG-ERK levels’ mapping relationships (that Castle Greyhawk Core Level 03 Gem Room & Crypts was originally El Raja Key level 4, for example).
The Archive is indeed a treasure trove of gaming material and lore from the Greyhawk and Kalibruhn campaigns. There’s plenty of material in the Archive that a DM can pick up and run with, and plenty to inspire a DM in his own campaign building efforts (whether using Kalibruhn, Greyhawk, or his own homebrew setting). There’s also great historical context here for someone wanting to read the Archive alongside a book like Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World, as well as deep insight into the creative mind of Rob Kuntz, and his lasting (and continuing!) impact on the development of Dungeons & Dragons.
I hope that helps provide some additional context for folks who are interested in the Archive and my thoughts on it. I’ll likely write some more about the Sunken City adventure soon! _________________ Allan Grohe (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The maps for Ice Grave and other adventures are included, but not the text or complete scenarios.
It seems the Archive will serve as a companion product and expensive (but probably worth it) price of admission for the Three Little Books module line. If Sunken City is any indication, the Archive will have the maps and the books will have the text. The Archive has much more than just module maps of course, but I get the feeling that Kuntz withheld details on the scenarios he hopes to publish.
Two years ago Kuntz announced that Ice Grave would be rereleased by Black Blade. Then he moved to France and now Ice Grave is among the slated modules advertised on the back of the Archive. Ice Grave should come next, but it seems the product codes are already out of sequence because the TLB web store has uploaded the covers of the City of Brass modules and listed them "coming soon!"
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