KNOCK! Vol. 1: A compendium opening the door on the best of old-school thought

 

KNOCK! Vol.1 from The Merry Mushmen

Is KNOCK! the best RPG thing of 2021? Could very well be. Do you need it? Yes! Its worth 100% of the money. This is a collection of blog posts, writings, and "bric-a-brac" from the old-school scene helpfully bound into an analog print format. Here is Questing Beast's video on the book. And here is Chris McDowell's review.

I agree with both Ben and Chris that, like the hip-hop beats used to promote the Kickstarter, KNOCK! conveys the scrappy-to-slightly-feral, easy, free-flowing, imaginative nature of running an old school DIY game. This is important because frequently the scene gets dragged for its various drama rather than the exciting content and sound advice it produces; this book wonderfully showcases both strengths.

The additional beauty of this collection is that, like the 1e AD&D DMG, it meanders across so many topics: monsters, treasure, traps, player classes, theory behind play, and interrogative thought on older modules. Randomly roll a d200 and you are going to land on an interesting, informative article.

In fact, it is so complete in covering all the topics you need to run a fantasy adventure game, that if KNOCK! had included Knave in a two page spread, this collection would have been a complete RPG!

However, what I can say with most certainty is that you can build, stock, and run a really good dungeon designed with the most current old-school thought on the matter using KNOCK!

The basic advice in Moldvey Basic D&D is to draw a map, place special monsters and treasure first (so the items the dungeon is known for or weapon its rumored to have guarded by the monster rumored to have killed the last chump), then stock using the table below:

Its confusing, but the chance a room has treasure is:
50% if contining a monster, 33% if a trap, & 16% if empty

This gets you going, but how do you make all the above "good"? What is a "good dungeon" anyways? Well, answers to these questions are exactly the sorts of articles that comprise KNOCK! Let me demonstrate:

Dungeon Design

030: Dungeon Check List- 8 things that make dungeons more interesting; allows self-grading
054: OSR-style Challenges- The nature of what you are trying to achieve in old-school design
082: The Overly Thematic Dungeon- How to balance the fantastical with the realistic
112: Livin' Up Those Corridors- Hallways are an interesting places to explore too

Monster Design

016: Monster Design- Using the Lich as a template, how to switch up classic monsters
039: Wandering Monsters- Those 1d6 skeletons can be used to tell the dungeon's story or spark interest
086: Dungeon Geniuses- You always need "special" NPCs to fight, talk to, or bribe or all 3!
140: Complete the Dungeon- Great faction table with goals and secrets
144: Just Use Bears- Want a special monster but agonize over the stats? Just use bear stats.

Neat Traps & Special Not-Traps

080: 8 Statue Encounters- Part of the Dungeon Check List is stuff to interact with-- here's eight.
113: 34 Good Traps- "Save or die" can frustrate players, here's how to keep traps exciting but fair

Good Treasure

089: Better Treasure- "Sword +1 and 500 gp" is not doing it in 2021, here's how to spice it up.
104: D20 Magic Helmets- Switch out all "Sword +1" with these instead; armor- criminally underutilized
116: 300 Useless Magic Items- Dead wizard in a (now more exciting) hallway? Check her pockets.
133: 12 Magic Blades- Better than "Sword +2" & you gotta have your dungeon geniuses packin'

And that's not even half the damn book! I've left out articles on player classes, monsters, dueling, essays about the Keep on the Borderlands, how to create impact in your game, make the stakes matter, a series of beautiful maps, the demon generator, and the 3-4 small adventures!

I hope this series gets at least 6 issues so we can create an omnibus that is all d6 tables. The production is sharp; art beautiful; advice sound; and a great way to fossilize the scene output as digital media preservation becomes unreliable.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks a lot for this review Warren! <3

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    1. Wonderful collection! I just wanted to try and somehow demonstrate that its not just thoughts on old-school play, but has utility as well.

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