The Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book comes in not one, but two versions. Both are a ten-and-a-half by fourteen-and-a-half-centimetre notebook, black and white, share the same format, run to sixteen pages in length, and are filled with tables. Each page a single table, the number of entries ranging in number from eight to thirty. There is even a table with fourteen entries which is drawn on using an ordinary deck of cards, but fans of Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game will have their own dice to roll on this table, and the likelihood is that they will have a thirty-sided die too. In the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book 2021, there are table for ‘What’s on the End of the Stick?’, ‘Coins on a Corpse’, ‘Coins in a Coffer’, ‘The Kobolds are Selling’, ‘Potions Side Effects’, ‘The Door Opens But’, ‘The Door's Stuck Because It's’, ‘Hirelings & Henchfolk’, ‘The Magic Mouth Says’, ‘What's in the Pit?’, and more. The including ‘Wrath of the Gods’, ‘What Angered the Gods?’, ‘Deck of Minor Magics’, ‘Wild Animal Reactions’, and ‘The Wheel of Fortune’. Some of the entries are fairly humourous, if not silly, such as ‘A bag of Troll excrement – on fire!’ from the ‘What’s on the End of the Stick?’ or ‘Turkish Delight cut from a Gelatinous Cube’ from the ‘The Kobolds are Selling’ table. Other tables are far more utilitarian, ‘Coins on a Corpse’ for example, listing different amounts of coins, whilst the ‘Hirelings & Henchfolk’ is a list of stats and names—actually starting with ‘Tom, Dick, and Harry’, of most Zero and First Level NPCs.
Two of the tables are different. One is the ‘Deck of Minor Magics’, and the other is ‘The Wheel of Fortune’. The ‘Deck of Minor Magics’ grants minor, but interesting magic, much in the style of the fabled Deck of Many Things, but very much toned down, and requires the player to draw from an ordinary deck of cards. That adds a pleasing physicality to the use of Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book 2021. ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ uses symbols rather than numbers and gives random effects which change a Player Character, his situation, or even hurt him. In fact this feels more random, and definitely more arbitrary than the ‘Deck of Minor Magics’. The result is determined by spinning the actual Wheel of Fortune which accompanies the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book 2021 and requires some craftwork upon the part of the Dungeon Master to cut out and mount. The use of symbols instead of numbers adds an element of mystery to the Wheel of Fortune and its accompanying table, and obscures the results a little so that the players cannot as easily attempt to spin the wheel to their characters’ benefit.
The other version of the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book also contains tables. However, all of them are blanks. There are spaces for tables which require the roll of an eight-sided die, a twelve-sided die, a thirty-sided die, and more, but not a single one of the tables in Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book contains any results. The point of this version of the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book is that it is ready for the Dungeon Master to fill in and design tables of her own.
The largest of the items is the Adventure Design Booklet. This is digest-sized and is again sixteen pages. Like the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book, it is also blank—or rather it does not have any content. The majority of its pages are lined and double-columned, there is a single page of hexes, and three of squares. The front page though, has a big space for a front cover illustration and a title above, much like the classic Dungeons & Dragons scenarios of years past. So much like the point of the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book is for the Dungeon Master to fill in and design tables of her own, the point of the Adventure Design Booklet is the Dungeon Master to fill in and design an adventure of her own. For a book that is all but blank, there is something delightfully nostalgic about the Adventure Design Booklet, all just waiting for the Dungeon Master to be inspired and put pen to paper, and in the process create an adventure that is particularly personal to her.
Physically, the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book 2021 and the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book are both black and white booklets with sturdy covers. Where the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book 2021 is done on a glossy paper stock, the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book and the Adventure Design Booklet not. They are done on a rougher paper stock, which makes for a better writing surface. The Adventure Design Booklet is also done in light grey—guidelines just waiting for firm input from the Game Master.
On one level, the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book 2021, the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book, the Adventure Design Booklet, and the Wheel of Fortune are ephemera, even fripperies, not necessary to play whatsoever. Yet they all have their uses and their charm. The Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book 2021 can add a little randomness and colour to play or serve as inspiration for the Dungeon Master, whilst the Dungeon Master’s Little Black Book and the Adventure Design Booklet are blank slates awaiting the Dungeon Master’s inspiration and creative input.
SquareHex will be at UK Games Expo which will take place between July 30th and August 2nd, 2021 at Birmingham NEC. This is the world’s fourth largest gaming convention and the biggest in the United Kingdom.