Product Review: Dungeonmorph Dice and Cards from Inkwell Ideas

When I first heard about the whole geomorph mapping paradigm in early 2011, it was at Dyson Logos’ blog – A Character For Every Game – but I came to discover only recently that they are a very old idea originally created by Gary Gygax himself. There was a series of books from TSR in the late 1970s – Dungeon Geomporphs and later Outdoor Geomorphs. The idea was that you could design a series of standard sized squares with different combinations of rooms, corridors, caves, and tunnels that would meet up on one or more sides.

Joe Wetzel adapted the ideas from Dyson, Gygax, and others and turned into a target="_blank">very successful Kickstarter project called DungeonMorph Dice, which focused on generating sets of dice from some of the common geomorphs as well as a deck of cards and a font. Each of these could be used by GMs to randomly put together some very interesting dungeon designs very quickly.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to get in on the Kickstarter project, but when the DungeonMorphs.com site came online before Christmas I knew I wanted to pick up a few. So this year for Christmas, I ordered the “Explorer Set” of dice, which includes 30 designs on five ten different dice (sorry for the confusion here, Joe must have put two sets into my box for review – each set comes with 5 dice). And I ordered a deck of “Dungeonmorph Cards” which includes 90 different 2.5″ x 2.5″ cards with different designs. When I received my package, “Santa” Joe was also kind enough to throw in some samples of the Monster Stand-Ins (Plastic Card Miniatures) project that kicked off earlier in December, so I have four lizard men and a couple of bugbearsowlbears.

The idea is pretty simple for the two Dungeonmorphs products I picked up. Roll the dice or randomly select a few cards, put them together in some semblance of a design as big as you want, sketch it out on a piece of paper or in a mapping program (or take a photo and digitally work with it), stock it with monsters, traps, and treasure – and set your player characters loose within it. Easy, right?

My difficulties with this simple approach are largely with my own artistic skills (or lack thereof). Translating what I see in a particular die roll or collection of cards to something I can use on paper or on the computer has been a bit of a challenge. For me, it’s much easier to go to something like Dave’s Mapper to have it randomly toss in a few shapes from various tile sets and voila, you get instant map. Or you could even go one step further with the Adventure Generator at DizzyDragon.net which not only creates the dungeon, but stocks it for you.

That said, I think the concept is sound. And it plays on the whole paradigm of gaming – rolling dice and playing cards are just part of the experience, so why not add some tactile randomization to the GM’s toolbox? It can’t all be random tables and online random number generators, can it?

A few other reviews have popped up around the gaming blogoverse for these Dungeonmorph products and I expect to see more in the next few weeks as some of the Kickstarter patrons get their dice and start playing with them…

In these other reviews, I really haven’t seen anybody address the issue of translating what’s on the dice or cards to something useful on paper or digital for use at the table. Unless you’re rolling, stocking on the fly, and using a ton of random encounter tables, you’re going to have to do some prep work.

That said, based on some feedback from Joe, it seems that it’s probably just my lack of artistic talent holding me back. So I’ll download some graph paper templates and see if I can sketch these things out into something usable. He also mentioned the “Dungeonmorphs Font” which could be used to duplicate a particular layout from cards or dice for easier output. So I’ll play with both options eventually and see what horrors I can create.

Ultimately I think there’s a need for this sort of hands-on tool for GMs and DMs to help spawn some imagination and creativity. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that you get to play while you’re creating something to play with!

Check out the whole line of Dungeonmorph products at their website – Dungeonmorphs.com!

Lastly, the plastic card stand-ups are very sturdy. I think they’d last much longer than a similar sized cardstock cutout, which is what many games (4e, Pathfinder) are shipping with these days (easy to mass produce). So definitely check out the Monster Stand-Ins (Plastic Card Miniatures) Kickstarter project and show Joe some love!

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