I only rediscovered D&D after college (I had played a handful of games in junior high), around the time WoTC released the 3.5e rules-set. The three core rulebooks, and the modules and supplements which accompanied them, influenced not only my assumptions about how the game was to be played, but also my aesthetic inclinations as well. When I began creating digital maps a few years later photo-realism appealed to me as a fitting medium to work with.
It has only been in the last few years that I’ve discovered the OSR. At first I was a bit puzzled as to what all the hype was about. From what I could tell the rules seemed less robust, less streamlined and less well organized than the system I had grown accustom to. Moreover the artwork and maps struck me as ‘quaint’. My initial impulse was to chalk the attraction up to little more than a bit of indulgent nostalgia on par with collecting vinyl records.
Of course I know better now. I have come to better appreciate and value the form of game play that these earlier systems and retro-clones encourage. One interesting consequence of my growing familiarity and appreciation of the OSR has been an expanding of my aesthetic horizons. I now find the interior art of these books to be ‘charming’. Where once the monochrome maps struck me as simplistic, I now find this very trait of simplicity to be a virtue in their design. While the artfully detailed dungeon maps of the 3rd edition era are well suited to short linear delves in which battle-maps feature prominently, this same amount of detail would be completely impractical for a large scale complex dungeon environment. By contrast the uncluttered two-tone map is much better suited at providing the referee with the essential information needed during game play.
That is why I why I decided to try my hand at some classic ‘old blue” TSR style dungeon maps for my next dungeon delve. This dungeon was originally a series of barrow-mounds created by an ancient mageocracy as the final resting place for their departed mage lords. As the years passed an underground complex grew up underneath the barrows. In the weeks ahead I plan to key this dungeon and go into a bit more of its history.