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Central Casting: Dungeons (1993)

I don’t know a whole lot about Task Force Games, aside of the fact that they distributed some (maybe all?) of Flying Buffalo’s books for a time. Central Casting appears to be a series of generic RPG supplements, but I’ve only encountered this one so far.

God, I love this book.

Essentially, it is a nearly 200-page engine for dungeon creation. I loooooove creating dungeons from scratch, but I equally love using tool kits like this to do the heavy lifting. They get you out of your comfort zone and you often find new ideas. Central Casting guides you through the process with random tables that cover a wide range of topics. Each room you place has a step-by-step guide for its creation, explaining reasoning – both in game terms and in verisimilitude – for rooms to appear the way they do. My favorite section is devoted to how to realistically dress your dungeon for play. Answering questions like “who made this?” and “why did they make it?” with random tables can lead to some surprising conclusions, especially once you realize most folks never ask those questions about their dungeons at all (see: practically every 1E adventure module dungeon).

Another great thing about this book? The art! On a technical level, I have a fondness for stipple shading and this is some pretty good stuff in the mode of early RPG art, maybe on the Chaosium side of things. However, look close. Don’t they look a bit…familiar? That’s because some of them are direct lifts of D&D art. The clearest example is the lady fighting the yuan-ti – her pose is exactly the same as that of a cleric by Larry Elmore in the pages of the blue box Expert Rules. The warrior in the tunnel looks a good deal like the fighter from the Basic Set. And if that isn’t a riff on the Great Green Devil from Tomb of Horrors, I dunno what it is. The rest look different enough for me to not be able to quite place them, but they give me déjà vu nonetheless. Except for the vampire geese. (Vampire geese!)

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