Wow, it just dawned on me he also worked on these two classics
Wow, it just dawned on me he also worked on these two classics ...
It's true...you did! I guess I got wrapped up in the Taladas discussion in the following post....It's funny, because even though I only skimmed his tremendous and varied body of work, those were two things I specifically called out!
"Arguably the best, simplest ruleset for D&D was B/X. Everyone remembers Moldvay, but Zab wrote the "X." But that's not all; anywhere you look, from Star Frontiers (Alpha Dawn) to Conan you see Zeb credited."
I tend to think D&D editions (and the designers associated with them) tend to be a lot like Bonds; people will always have a strong attachment to the Bond they grew up with, and while they can learn to appreciate (or even love) the current Bond, or a past Bond, there will always be that unshakable love for Roger Mo.... um, the edition you started with.
I'd be interested in learning more. 2e has always struck me as the least well designed version of D&D (Zeb Cook's hands were tied there admittedly) because it's a mismatch between a game that was designed for gritty dungeon crawling, a DMG that tries to point you to heroic fantasy, and an XP system where killing monsters is the only type of XP the party shares leading to a much more murder-happy game than even 1e. And Planescape, while a great setting appears to me to be an even bigger mismatch between rules and setting than the rest of 2e.
I'd be delighted to find out that I was wrong and that there's more to learn - but could you tease out some of how he was a great designer rather than just listing some of his products please.
The edition you first come to D&D has an enormous influence, no doubt. If someone said, "hey, do you want to run a BECMI campaign," I'd be all in.
The Bond I grew up with was Roger Moore, but my mom made sure that my brother and I knew that Sean Connery was the true one. I still think that, after the brooding brute of Daniel Craig, we need a return to the slick and charming, sometimes silly Roger Moore-style Bond.
I don't think we can ever go back to a "camp" James Bond.
It's hardly a new theory, but it's been pointed out that after Austin Powers, you can't tread that line anymore. It's a shame. The harder part is that, TBH, it's really hard to deal with the ... more problematic aspects of Bond from the past. The things that differentiate him from just another Jason Bourne/Ethan Hunt character (the drinking, the womanizing, the gambling, etc.) .... haven't aged that well.
Anyway, Zeb Cook... Star Frontiers was a fun game, though I never gave it as much time as Top Secret or Gamma World. The Isle of Dread definitely deserves its praise. Looking at it, in 1981, that it was an almost completely open-ended, non-dungeon crawl island, was pretty ahead of its time.
With those three, we see his brilliance as a game designer. In so many ways, Zeb is the bridge from Gygaxian D&D to 3e.
More than many people realize. I recall an interview years ago where he said they wanted to use ascending AC in 2e, but decided they wanted it to be compatible with 1e even more.
The great thing about 2e is that, by limiting it, it was completely backwards compatible ... allowing a pretty decent legacy from 1974-1999. That's a good run!
The bad news is that by limiting it so much, it really limited the ability of developers to clear away any of the cruft that was accumulating.
But yes, he had to work within some pretty hard-coded rules given to him by the powers that be.
I think their take to make it backwards compatible was the best choice myself. It cleaned up some things (1e is my favorite, but I like how 2e handled thief skill progressions, non weapon profs, bard class, and priest spheres).
I still hold that the rules cyclopedia had the best skill system for D&D. Quick and concise.Yes on thief.
No on non-weapon proficiencies.*
Yes on bard.
No on priest spheres (I get the domain love, but tying it specifically into a deity and not a sphere is very much more in keeping with the ethos of the time, IMO).
*On NWPs, I just never felt that that they jibed well with the underlying system.
2nd edition is where the bulk of all the cool, unique settings were born. I think there's only been one since then...Eberrron?
Dark Sun was envisioned as a base for mass combat rules, hence the codename WarWorld, emphasis on psionics was added later and Be Ok definitely established the look of the world. Ironically BattleSystem never really took off, so the mass combat bit was dropped later.Wasn't Dark Sun written as Brom's work arrived across the TSR desks? I feel like I read that they built a setting around his art. 4e probably had the benefit of being developed with plenty of lead time and around solid rules.