Up until September of 2005, I maintained an up-to-date index of Dungeon Magazine. It was hosted on 3d6.org, which was then my main gaming site (and is now my photo site). When I stopped running the campaign that I used the index for, and after my Dungeon subscription lapsed, I stopped updating the index, too.
In the past few weeks, though, I’ve gotten several emails out of the blue from folks asking where the index went. And the more I think about it, the more it sounds like a pretty good fit for TT. Even though it’s game-specific, it would be useful to a lot of GMs.
Should I bring back the Dungeon index?
I liked the index because it let GMs filter their Dungeon back issues for modules that fit the level range they needed. Instead of paging through the actual issues, you could just sort or search the index.
The original index was an Excel file, which was nice for a couple of reasons. I know Excel pretty well, so fiddling with it was no problem. It’s also searchable and usable offline, unlike an online database — and I don’t know anything about online databases.
It occurs to me that it could easily be done as a wiki, though. And that gets over one of the biggest hurdles I would have in terms of bringing it back: I’m missing the past year of Dungeon issues, and don’t currently have a subscription.
Another option would be to keep it in Excel format, but ask the GMing community to email me the data. That sounds workable, but also pretty clunky.
So what do you think? Is it worth trying as a community project? What format should it be in, if I bring it back?
And the one I’m most leery of, since I strive to keep TT largely system-neutral: Being game-specific, does it really work for TT?
9/6/06 Update: The Dungeon index project has been taken over by Charlie (who commented several times below), and will be hosted on his site, Intwischa.com.
Once I saw how much work he was doing to turn it into a true database, I suggested that Charlie host it himself. Not because I wouldn’t love to see it become a resource here on TT, but because I knew that if I was doing that much work on a project, I’d probably want to put it on my own site!
Thank you to everyone who expressed an interest in the prospect of a TT Dungeon index, and in working on it and helping to populate it with data from back issues — as always, you rock. And keep an eye out for Charlie’s index, which should be coming online sometime down the road.
I like the idea of the dungeon index. I think TT would be an ok place to host it. I don’t think TT should be game specific.
One of the nice things about TT being game neutral is that so many of the ideas that get posted here can apply to so many games. Social contracts alone (the TT powerhouse) are having a huge impact on my game design.
Going specific, most likely to dnd, would also cut down on the quality of the posts. I’ve seen so many “NEW STATS FOR BUGBEARS!” type posts on other forums and DND sites. That’s not really about gaming in my opinion. It’s just another fun crunchy bit.
The Dungeon index does seem cool, even just as a nostalgia type of thing. I’d love to find an old hard copy of aurora’s whole realms catolog.
Seems to me that good adventure ideas are good adventure ideas regardless of system. Yeah, these are PRESENTED as DnD adventures, but the index would end up being (unless I misundestand) a huge list of abstracts of cool adventure ideas useable in any system.
If it’s worth the work to you, then it sounds like a good idea. We can justify all we want– but really, the question is: do you want to do it? If so, go for it– I’m sure you’ll get the adventure data sent to you.
Why did you stop subscribing and keeping the index in the first place?
Wiki it and let someone else take over the heavy lifting; you’ve got enough pressures on your time currently and in the coming months. 😉
I’d love to see a good Dungeon index develop. The wiki idea would allow folks to add more types of useful cross referencing.
While the recent Dungeon magazines are less useful to me than the pre-D20 ones, my Dungeon magazine is one of the best gaming investments I’ve ever made.
And as far a system specific: I’m almost certain I have got more hours of Cold Iron and RuneQuest play out of Dungeon than D&D play (and if you consider that even for Arcana Unearthed/Evolved, conversion is necessary, then it absolutely tips in favor of non-D&D).
Hmm, and I was just realizing, I was thinking I had started my subscription while playing D&D, but now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure I ran Trouble at Grog’s from issue 4 under Fantasy Hero, which was the system in use at the start of the campaign that eventually converted to D&D that I was thinking I had started the Dungeon subscription for (I pre-subscribed when the magazine was first announced).
I’d love to be able to cross reference by other features of the adventures than just level and title. I’d like to be able to find all the adventures that happen at sea, or in a port, or in mountains, etc.
Even if it’s not directly related to the mission of TT, it’s a valuable resource for many GMs out there. This will attract more people to the site, indirectly furthering TT’s mission.
I’m not sure it would translate well into a standard wiki — think searching and filtering results — but setting up a simple online version control system would allow the existing spreadsheet format to be preserved and allow for collaboration on maintaining it.
Also, one could take the Excel spreadsheet data, dump it into a database, and write a php front-end that allows you to search for and filter results based on the same fields that are in the Excel spreadsheet. A seperate form could also allow people to add new adventures to the index as new issues of Dungeon Magazine were published. One thing I can think of that would need to be worked out is, how would you prevent vandalism? Allowing the general public to add adventures to the index, but not edit or delete existing entries, would be one solution. A smaller subset of moderators could periodically scan the index entries for bogus entries and to correct minor mistakes.
(not immediately relevant — but you can find the Whole Realms catalog on half.com.)
I think the index is invaluable. Yes it is D&D specific, but just because you want to stay neutral doesn’t mean you should exclude something that’s good – for any system.
As for what format – the excel format is very user friendly and it’s nice that it can be taken offline. But, organizing the contributoins is the problem. I’m quite confident that there will be several volounteers to do it, so you don’t have to do a thing, but making sure they don’t step on each others toes could be problematic.
Perhaps get all your volounteers, split up the missing Dungeons, and have each person mail in an excell sheet with the appropriate cells – then you (or someone) integrates it into the master spreadsheet?
Going forward it is a little easier – just get a volounteer to do it each month.
FYI – I hereby volounteer to help out with bringing it up to date.
Awesome! 🙂 I’m very excited about this for several reasons.
TT has changed over time. It’s always been community-oriented (with tons of comments, even when it was just the blog), but with the addition of the forum, the wiki, more guest posts and other features, it’s really become much more community-centric.
This — the index idea — is a great example of that. I love being able to open up a question like this to the GMing community and get lots of honest responses in return. And I’m thrilled that folks are excited enough about it to want to help out with getting it rolling. You rock. 😀
Resurrecting the Dungeon index is officially my next project for TT. On to details. 🙂
John: You mentioned nostalgia, which is a good point. When I wrote the first index, it was 3.0 and 3.5e only, because a) that’s what I was running, b) I had almost all the issues and c) I figured many GMs wouldn’t have access to the older back issues.
I would like to continue that focus. If there is an index that covers 1e and 2e issues, I would prefer it to be a separate entity or a filterable subset of the main index. In other words, if a GM wants to filter out any edition, they can do that.
Rick: Also a great point — it’s mainly for D&D, but not exclusively so.
Scott: I’m comfortable taking this on provided it’s a community effort and not a solo effort. I’ve been careful about managing my time invested in TT to avoid burnout, and this approach fits that plan.
I stopped subscribing to Dungeon because I stopped running D&D for awhile. When the time came, I wanted the $60 more than 12 more issues that would just sit on my shelf.
I stopped updating the index because at the time I wasn’t running a community-focused site at all, and getting help sounded weird. 😉
Abulia: I’m leaning away from doing it as a wiki for the reasons Aaron mentioned, but the spirit of your comment is definitely where I’m headed.
“Cautious progress” is my middle name. 😉
Frank: Including terrain types, major adversaries and the like was one of the most common requests I got while running the old index. It’s definitely something I’d like to include this time around.
Aaron: Thank you for dropping by to follow up on your email — I still really like the CVS suggestion.
The only catch with using a CVS, or dumping Excel data to a database, is that I don’t know how to do either of those things.
It would be awesome to have it in two formats, really: An online database and a downloadable version.
Wonger: After reading these comments, I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to find a couple of volunteers. Thank you for your offer! 🙂
Based on everything I’ve read and thought about so far, here’s what I see:
1) I have the data from the start of the 3.0 issues (in the 80s, I believe) through #126 in Excel format. If we pick a different format, we’d need to export that data.
2) Data for issues #127 to present would need to be gathered, preferably in the format that we choose.
2a) If there’s an appetite for a pre-3e index, that data would need to be gathered too.
3) We need to pick a format — or formats, if having online and offline versions sounds good. I’m going to veto the wiki option unless the clunkiness of searching wikis can be overcome. That leaves:
– Some sort of database with a PHP frontend
– A CVS combined with Excel
It just occurred to me that this could also be done as a blog (bear with me ;)). Each entry would be its own post, and would consist largely of keywords — level range, terrain, etc.
You’d start by searching for the keyword or keywords that interested you, and then narrow it down from there. Not ideal, but doable.
Which option would you prefer? What have I left out?
I know there are several TT members with database and programming skills, although I won’t call anyone out by name. You know who you are. 😉 Are you interested in building the framework? Do the DBs you know how to build include an option for offline output, or offline versions?
I would certainly like to have the index include the pre-D20 issues. Honestly, they are the ones I am most likely to use (the adventure length started getting longer with the D20 adventures – which is actually curious because D20 doesn’t support long, big adventures as well as earlier editions, at least 1e).
Of course I have all those issues, so I’d be happy to start inputting data (but obviously it would be cool for it to be shared).
Certainly if you’re concerned about being single system, you don’t want the index to be D20 exclusive.
Another thought – have room someplace for notes on adapting the adventures, whether to personal campaigns, or all the way to other game systems. Being able to search for adventures people had good success converting might be useful (in a wiki format, these could easily be entirely separate pages).
Springing from Frank’s thought– instead of a field for conversion notes in specific, you could have a “ties to this adventure” and just fill in the URLs of sites/posts where conversion notes, actual play reports, and the like are.
I’m thrilled to see so much energy to bring this thing back–after all, it was the Index that brought me to 3d6 in the first place.
In addition to everything that’s been mentioned–I see two more possibilities: a rating system, and a review system. (And probably a rating system for reviews!) This would encourage community participation, and would provide one more level of filtering (for instance, the user can ask “Show me all 3.5 adventures in an urban environment for 5th-9th level characters rated 4 out of 5 or higher.”)
The “ties to this adventure” idea is fantastic–this way, adventure entries could contain links to the free downloadable content Paizo provides, as well as other resources on the internet.
And, being an RSS fiend, I love the idea of blogging this. There is a wide range of open-source PHP utilities that could simply feed new content into an RSS feed, so those of us who read TT through an RSS aggregator would be able to easily see when the index is updated (or when new reviews are posted, etc…)
Lastly, the “links” section can contain one of the most inspirational tools to a GM: links to adventure logs about this adventure. Either I or my players always write up a log of any adventure we do, and they are always posted online–even though we’re the only ones who read them right now. I’d love to have a place where I can read other’s accounts of how they ran the adventure. Reading James Jacob’s account of his character through the recent Age of Worms adventure path has really colored the way I’m running the adventure.
One more thing–Martin seems to suggest the blog/DB-driven ideas as seperate possibilities. I think it is a both/and kind of thing–the index can be a field=searchable DB that is published as text-searchable blog content.
Awesome, it’s exciting to witness the rebirth of this project!
The Excel/CVS option is (relatively) trivial to set up. The dungeon index could be re-started in it’s current format as an Excel spreadsheet, which lets people add new columns as desired. Keep in mind that once another search column is added, someone has to enter values for every row in the spreadsheet — this is a lot of work. Once a stable, reasonable set of new features have been added and agreed on, the spreadsheet can be translated into a more robust online application using a back-end database and php front-end pages.
One of the challenges with a project like this is something called ‘feature creep’. It’s difficult to add new features once work has been started, but it’s really simple to outline them before any real work has begun on implementing this type of web application. Once real work has begun, the feature set is typically frozen, and new features are added after the first set is implemented. Another thing to consider is the KISS philosophy — keep it simple, stupid — and if enough people clamor for (and are willing to put the time/energy into) a new set of features, it can be implemented. Consider also that the more capabilities this type of online application will have, the more complex this will be, and therefore it will be more prone to having problems and/or security issues.
My fear of the Excel/CVS option is forks, compatibility issues, etc… For instance, I’m an OpenOffice.org user, and there were always some interesting issues opening the old index in OO.
The DB-driven site idea gets past this problem, and it is relatively simple to create a download form where a user can pick their fields and grab a pretty plain-vanilla CSV (yes, I mean comma seperated values, quite distinct from concurrent versioning system :)).
Worries about feature-creep are spot on. The 1.0 model of this should consist of little more than the same functionality we had with the Excel sheet, with the added advantage of being able to be queried through a web interface, and CSV download.
At this point, it would make sense for Martin to solicit feedback on other features, and begin to develop a roadmap to 2.0.
Which, I’m thinking, has to be an AJAX app 🙂
I use the Dungeon index quite a bit. Please bring it back!
I also prefer it as an Excel file, but I’ll take what I can get. 🙂
Sure there’s potentially some compatibility issues.
Of course, if it’s wiki-ish, then some kind soul might take the Excel source and export it to a variety of more generalized formats.
I’m not exactly volunteering to do this. But I think people would.
In the blurb for the latest Dungeon magazine (20th anniversary?) they list an index to every adventure. You might want to check it out.
What would also be cool would be to add into it all the TSR modules ever published (which are now available in PDF format) and possibly the DCC modules.
Hmm, I have 138, and my copy doesn’t have an index in it (and it’s not in the table of contents). It looks like the index didn’t make it. No indication of why in the editorial. An index was definitely identified as upcomming in #137 though…
I notice I also have an index compiled by Jay Hafner that goes from #1 to #110.
There is a strange glitch that is shifting the text of this page over in Firefox for me this morning–so I can only see part of this textbox–I apologize in advance for typos.
#138 does not contain an index–in Prison Mail of that issue, they indicate that they dropped the 16 page feature for space constraints.
Paul, can you e-mail a user/pass to cwhite-at-curlytops-dot-org? I’d like to see what this thing does.
Frank: Glad to hear it! Onwards, then. 🙂
Paul: That looks good — clean, simple and apparently quite configurable. Charlie (comment #21) is working on a prototype of his own, and I wouldn’t mind giving this stage of the process the weekend to see what happens.
I think we could move forward with your DB and be quite happy, though. It looks like it’ll get the job done.
So! On to the questions. DabbleDB is a paid service — is that what you used for this? Is the app you used something I could load on TT and host locally? Are you game for passing it on to be hosted here?
Charlie: That was Paul’s giant links. 😉 I HTMLized them.
DabbleDB is a paid service, but it’s in beta, and I have a free beta account.
It’s hosted-only, so you can’t install it locally.
I do my own hostingâ€”by day, I’m a systems architect for the IT organization at a multi-billion dollar company I can’t name hereâ€”and so I’d definitely prefer someone write something custom.
But frankly, anyone with Filemaker Server could write the app. It’s actually pretty simple to store the data.
Ideally, a buzzword-du-jour filled web app with a few, basic features, would rock:
1) a real database, so it’s a table with the info in it, and related tables with things to choose as values (like setting, etc.)
2) an easy way to export the data is _critical_.
3) while a full-fledged moderation system would be great, even just a simple list-of-users-with-read/write-access would suffice, since i’m sure a core group of 3-10 trustworthy people could be found to do the entry work, and lots of people can submit email corrections, etc, to that core groupâ€¦
4) an integrated or associated wiki and/or discussion forum, so the general public can comment on particular dungeons, describe their attempts to run them, etc.
i’ve made several attempts to write such a thing myself in ruby (with rails) over the last 12 months, but have never had the time.
but this is something i’ve wanted for a very, very long time. any solution is a good one, mine was intended just to foster discussion.
Sorry, was incorrect: dabbledb is out of beta, and I have a paid account. I apologize that was unclear, and it was unfair to themâ€”they’ve done a fantastic job!
Paul: Of your four wishlist items, #3 would be no problem with the TT community, and #4 can be done on the wiki or by creating another board on our forum (also simple).
I can’t tell from your comment if you’re looking to gather folks to work on a DB that you host — is that the case? I’m happy to point people your way, but my interest is in building the project here on TT.
Just seemed like a good thing to clarify. 😉
While I’d love to do the hosting, I’d rather you do it: I just don’t have the time to devote.
I’ll be happy to help as much as I can, and I am an endless fount of useless opinions, but your hands are much more capable than mineâ€”there’s no question of that.
Please let me know if there’s anything at all I can do to help!
Paul: Thanks for the clarification. 🙂
I’ve now seen a sample of Charlie’s MySQL/PHP database, and it also looks very good. It also has the advantage of not being tied to a paid service, which means it can be easily integrated into TT.
Paul, if you’d like to drop me a line to chat about the prospects of using your DabbleDB implementation here, I’d love to chat with you about it outside of the comments. At the moment, I’m leaning towards Charlie’s DB for the reason mentioned above.
Now that the basic questions — should we? and can we? — have been answered, I’d like to pick an implementation and move on to the next stage — gathering and inputting data — as quickly as possible.
I’ll write another post as soon as we reach that point. 🙂
I’m sure Charlie’s database is the right way to go. Just try to ensure there’s a way to pull the data back out.
Some of the PHP frameworks out there, and others (like Catalyst in perl, or Rails in ruby, etc.) are great options for exactly this kind of thing.
But the most important step is to avoid tying the data to one format. Provide an export format, like CSV, and try to stick to sound database design principles (normalized data, multiple related tables, etc.) and it’ll work exceptionally well.
The wiki and blog aspects are important as well, because there’s no other good way to get the input of the community.
I certainly intend to contribute as much as possible. I only get to play every 5-6 weeks because of my schedule, but I always read Dungeon magazine.
Paul: Playing every 5-6 weeks must be rough!
It’ll be great to have you aboard for contributions to the index. And I definitely like the idea of running a blog/wiki/forum on the side for supplementary stuff — “I ran this adventure, and it was awesome,” “The dragon’s CR is way too high,” etc.
Hey, an update!
I’m plunking away at the online database–I did a lot of work on it during a recent vacation, and hope to have some kind of usable beta within the next several weeks.
I’ll definately have the CSV export as an option for the index, but my goal is to have the search functions so robust (and useful) that the only need for an offline index will be people who don’t have regular access to the web.
Sounds great, Charlie! Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. 🙂