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What's Your Flavor?
Dungeon Editorial
by Steve Winter

Adventures fall into all sorts of categories. If you're like me, you enjoy dividing them into camps and comparing their strengths and weaknesses. (I'm one of those people who finds this joke hilarious: "There are 10 types of people in the world; those who understand binary numbering, and those who don't.") Some of the obvious splits are by:

Dungeon vs. Wilderness: This may be the oldest and most basic division. There are "dungeons" and there are "wilderness adventures." In that context, wilderness is a stand-in for anything that happens aboveground. At some point, old-fashioned dungeon crawls fell out of favor for being too artificial, but I think that misses the point. Their artificiality is part of what makes them interesting. A dungeon is a closed system with its own rules and conventions. That's what makes it unique.

Location-based vs. Event-driven: Location-based adventures describe a location, its inhabitants, and their interactions, then turns the characters loose in it. The characters might have a specific goal in mind, or they might not. A big part of the enjoyment comes from just exploring the setting. An event-driven adventure almost always has the characters pursuing a goal, sometimes on a timetable, often at the behest of an NPC. Specific events are planned along the way, and there might—or might not—be a way to circumvent or forestall those events. Characters can influence the unfolding events through their actions, but the story Is going to proceed with or without their interaction.

Saving the World vs. Acting in Your Own Self Interest: This is one of the most interesting splits to me. Frequently, it follows the location-based vs. event-driven divide. That is, if the characters are out to save the world from an impending evil, there's a good chance that they're also in the midst of an event-driven adventure. If they're pursuing their own interest to get rich, become powerful, or just lead an exciting life filled with thrills and danger, there's a better chance that they're having more location-based adventures.

Beyond that, however, is a difference in inspirational sources. Players who favor the types of characters who are out to pursue their own interests in the campaign world tend to be fans of older, pulp-style, swords-and-sorcery fiction such as the tales of Conan the Barbarian, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and the early books in Michael Moorcock's Stormbringer saga (Elric of Melnibone, Sailor on the Seas of Fate). Players who enjoy the saving the world probably prefer stories such as the later Elric tales (The Bane of the Black Sword, Stormbringer), the Dragonlance Chronicles, the Earthsea stories, and Lord of the Rings. Personally, while I like all of those books, I gravitate toward characters who are freebooters, wanderers, and rootless sell-swords. They will sign on as caravan guards just to see what's on the other side of the desert before getting involved in long-running crusades to make the world a better or safer place. Saving civilization now and then still makes for a very enjoyable diversion.

In Dungeon, we recognize both camps (and the overlap between them) and try to offer variety. In the Chaos Scar, for example, you'll find adventures where the characters are clearly looking out for the good of the surrounding countryside and others where they're in it mainly for the gold and the glory. This month, "Lord of the White Field" finds the characters chiefly on a mission of mercy, while "Head in the Clouds" falls a bit into both camps: an NPC asks the characters for help, but their reasons for helping probably have more to do with curiosity and a thirst for the unusual than with altruism.

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