As best as I can tell, there's still a chance that I will have the book done on time. There have been some hang-ups, however, and I am especially anxious to be sure the book is of the highest quality. Thus, I am committed to letting the readers know in advance if there is going to be any pushing back of the release date.
Right now, I'd say the March 1st date on the Dungeon's Front Door is pretty soft. On the other hand, if I were to push it back, positively the latest would be a period of one week (March 7). The book is entirely completed just now, but editing can be a frustrating affair.
I will let the reader know the firm date on the 24th of February. Please forgive me if I have to push the book's release back. Some things can't be helped.
At any rate, here is the introduction as it stands. I am following up with the photographer of the book's front cover to check the facts included below:
IntroductionBefore completing this book, I had considered adjusting the present-day appearance of the figure on the front cover. For anyone who cares to look at the image in a good light, it will not be hard to discern an orange hardhat through the dim light, a blue water bottle and a climbing harness, all standard equipment for anyone adventuring underground nowadays. Suggestions were made that I should give the subject a set of horns, disturbing bright eyes or simply black out the shape entirely – all of which I did not do.
Somehow, I felt that any change for fantasy’s sake would be too on the nose, even clichéd . . . and as I grew familiar with the image over a period of months, I began to feel that any change would diminish the sheer beauty of the landscape that it depicts – a place on this Earth that is completely real, just as it appears.
The location, as photographer and caver Nicholaus Vieira told me, is found under a mountain in the Selkirk Range in British Columbia, located within Glacier National Park near Roger’s Pass. To reach the point where the photograph was taken, Nick and friends spent thousands of hours spent researching, training, organizing and exploring a cave system that he calls “Raspberry Rising.” As of 2014, the passageway on the book cover had never known the sound of a human’s footsteps.
In real life, far from the fantasies of dungeons, it takes many, many incursions to explore the interior of a cave. It means hauling several trips worth of gear up to the entrance, reconnoitering the space within, storing goods, making preparations to climb if need be . . . and in the case of Raspberry, bringing along dive gear.
The Raspberry cave system is formed from a sink-hole that can be found below Tupper Glacier. Steadily, over millennia, the water dribbling into the mountain has formed an unknown number of parallel passages, descending more than two thousand feet over several miles. This we know only because dye tracing proves a relationship between the sink hole and the Raspberry’s entrance – though the actual system between the two has not yet been fully explored.
Nick’s party are following the stream upwards through the heart of the Mount Tupper, climbing waterfalls (sometimes strictly by feel, due to spray) and cascades, seeking the stream’s trunk passage through the mountain. Five times on this journey, they have encountered a “sump” – places where the passage dips so that the stream fills the passage with water, something like the U-curve under a kitchen sink. Raspberry’s sumps are long, technically difficult and too large – and inaccessible – to drain. Thus they can only be passed by cave diving – which means that at each stage along the journey, Nick’s party must bring along their scuba gear in order to navigate their way through.
While sumps can have clear water, Nick tells me that some of these in Raspberry have a consistency “like chocolate milk.” Thus, in scuba gear, deep below the Earth’s surface, he is literally feeling his way blind through a tunnel the shape of which is impossible to know. Sumps like this can take a lot of dives to fully explore.
How far is all this from the rather mild process of exploring a D&D Dungeon? Comparatively, I cannot help but view most of the dungeons I’ve run as a sort of Fun House joke, as far from anything truly dangerous as it is possible to get.
Then again, I remind myself that dungeons in the real world do not have creatures living there, who surely would take the time to knock out a few narrow passages, put in a door or two, level the floors and perhaps take up a broom and a mop and make the underground presentable. Of course, that gives me the image of an orc wearing a French maid’s costume – try to get that out of your head!
Thus I am reconciled with the potentially game-shattering realities of real caves – though there’s little doubt that I’m due to examine more fully the principles and practice of what the spelunking world can offer. That is, provided I’m not actually required to go underground. It isn’t that I’m claustrophobic or anything – after a lifetime of writing and editing in dark, dank rooms, surrounded only by the dim glow of the computer monitor, being in the dark is something of a habit. It is only that as I get a lot older, I become increasingly clumsy and increasingly colder. I doubt I have the wherewithal to climb a ten-metre high waterfall.
This series of essays do not, therefore, attempt to dissuade the reader from running the traditional dungeon found in D&D. Rather, I have sought to rant over a few of the tropes while mocking others, then deconstructing that which remains. Amid the philosophical approach that tends to possess me when speaking about the things I love, the reader will discover a collection of positive, useful thoughts I have accumulated about dungeons. Within, I will describe what a dungeon is and what it means to be in one. I will suggest ways to flesh out and provide substance to the underground and its inhabitants. I have included some humorous moments and taken time to wonder what it is that makes dungeons popular – for they are very popular, despite all the goofiness and absurdity of their existence.
The preposterous notion of dungeons – as slashingly brilliant as their invention was – will forever entice some poor soul to write, grinding along, of all the things that we already know to be terribly wrong about them. It is truly a sign of something’s value when it will withstand criticism that is 100% true about that thing’s badness. How awesome is it that sensibility makes no difference? For all the influence that reason has to say about the existence of dungeons, it might as well be an exhausted, wrecked hamster rocking back and forth on a very small wheel.
Therefore, I expect to still be running dungeons thirty years from now . . . for parties that will still be excited to gain admittance. Whenever a DM begins to feel that the game is getting out of hand, whenever there are clear signs that a new campaign or adventure is needed, the dungeon is there. When the players want to indulge in a little nostalgia: the dungeon is there. Whenever we’re looking for cutting edge, for the risk of a total party kill, for a little hack and haul away the loot: the dungeon is there.
Or rather, I should say here – as the dungeon is what you have in your hands right now. The dungeon as I see it. Therefore, let’s stop loitering outside. Let’s pick up our weapons and see what there is to kill.
Some moderate changes have been made to the text after fact checking with Nick.