Active from 2005 to 2007 and dedicated entirely to system-neutral GMing advice, Treasure Tables was one of the earliest RPG blogs. It was also the precursor to Gnome Stew, so we decided the best way to keep all of its content -- over 750 articles and more than 7,500 comments -- accessible to as many GMs as possible was to move it here, which we did in 2012. Comments are turned off, just they as were when Treasure Tables closed in 2007. The GMing material and discussion archived below was originally featured on Enjoy! --Martin Ralya

My friend Sam, who I game with every week, pointed me to this saucy little minx (thanks, Sam!): The Dungeonomicon, a lengthy thread on the WotC forums that attempts to justify, explain and tweak dungeons, along with a variety of other fantasy RPG staples.

It’s broken down into sections, but the original thread has no direct links to each section. Let’s remedy that by linking to the foundation posts individually here.

Tools for Fantasy RPGs (not just D&D)

D&D-Specific Material

There’s a lot of interesting food for thought in this thread — hopefully you’ll get some good mileage out of it!

About  Martin Ralya (TT)

"Martin Ralya (TT)" is two people: Martin Ralya, the administrator of and a contributor to Gnome Stew, and a time traveler from the years 2005-2007, when he published the Treasure Tables GMing blog (TT). Treasure Tables got started in the early days of RPG blogging, and when Martin burned out trying to run it solo he shut it down, recruited a team of authors, and started Gnome Stew in its place. We moved all TT posts and comments to Gnome Stew in 2012.


12 Responses to Dungeonomicon: Rethinking a Fantasy Staple

  1. I love it! Nice to see it posted here.

  2. These are incredible. A “must read” for anyone who runs D&D.

  3. It’s pretty amusing that the author says: “In our own world, the question of the chicken and the egg is one put out mostly to confuse the very young.”, since the answer and logic he presents: “It actually has a definitive answer, the egg came first. It doesn’t even matter where you draw the line as to what is a chicken and what is some other creature, because wherever that line is drawn, the creature in question was first an egg and its own parents were not chickens.” is wrong.

    That is: While it is true (unless you accept the possibility of spontaneous chickens) that any creature you may choose to define as a chicken first came from an egg, this does NOT prove that the egg came before the chicken. It proves AN EGG came before the chicken, but if we’re accepting ANY egg, then the true answer is: “Bug eggs and fish eggs came before chickens. Therefore, the Egg came first.” As this answer is obviously unacceptable, we must further specify what we mean by “Egg” clearly, what is implied is a chicken egg. Thus the question is: Which came first, the chicken or the chicken egg?

    What precisely IS a chicken egg is the entire crux of the argument that the author completely misses. Is a chicken egg an egg laid by a chicken? Or is a chicken egg an egg from which a chicken hatches? Perhaps a chicken egg must meet BOTH criteria?

    If we say a chicken egg is an egg laid by a chicken, then CLEARLY the chicken must have come first. YES, that chicken came from an egg, but it was NOT a chicken egg, as it did not come from a chicken, but rather some ancestor of the chicken.

    If instead we posit that a chicken egg is an egg from which a chicken hatches, then CLEARLY the egg must come first, as the author claims, because any creature considered a chicken must, by our definition of a chicken egg, have come from a chicken egg.

    If we more stringently insist that a chicken egg must both be laid by a chicken AND that a chicken must hatch from it, then the first chicken egg is clearly contingent on the pre-existence of the first chicken.

    Of course, we can make similar challenges about the nature of a chicken. That is: is a chicken a creature with a certain set of characteristics? Is a chicken a creature hatched from a chicken egg? Each of these choices also changes the answer to the question.

    In addition, depending on the answers to what is a chicken and what is a chicken egg, such questions can arise as: If we take an egg from some other species, and artificially replace it’s embryo with a chicken embryo, is the resultant creature a chicken? Is the egg now a chicken egg? What if we put a non-chicken embryo into a chicken egg?

    What the author wholly fails to realize is that the chicken and egg debate is both far deeper than they give it credit for, AND is an incredibly important tool in understanding philosophy, semantics, and many types of theory (including the game theory and social contract theory we all heatedly discuss from time to time). By dismissing it as “mostly to confuse the very young” they both do a disservice to the principles it underlines, and display their own ignorance.

  4. Rick, I utterly refuse to believe you spent THAT MUCH TIME writing out a dissertation on which came first, the chicken or the egg. My answer is identical to the new Bond’s when asked how he’d like his martini: to paraphrase, “Who CARES?”



  5. Believe it or not, there are entire units devoted to it in various philosophy courses. I spent no REAL time on it, that happened years ago in college, I just dug the basics out of my brain and tossed together a quick five minute essay.

    Granted, it’s not something that you’d make use of on, say a trip to the grocery store, but there’s a handful of really useful lessons in there for anyone who might be interested in considering any serious kind of philosophy or study in logic, in the same fashion that we rarely use Algebra in a trip to the grocery store, but it’s the foundation for all higher mathmatics.

  6. Interesting, but I’m not sure I want to go through those contortions to make my fantasy make sense. I’m much happier just handwaving the off screen stuff– or renaming the “gold piece” to the “guilder pence” and making it some other chunk of metal.

    Still, they are provocative– thanks for linking off to them.

  7. In genetics, the egg comes first.

    Due to variances in the passing of genetic material, the young are not identical to the parents, but the genetic material in the egg is identical to the chicken it becomes.

    Not only does philosophy spend far too much time discussing something that a hard science has already answered, but it gets the wrong answer.

    There’s a lesson here.

  8. ugh. i don’t game to rethink, damnit. :)

  9. The lesson, Telas is that you fall into the same error as I point out earlier: Assuming that your interpretation of “Chicken Egg” is absolute and universal.

    As you can see, The author of the Dungeonomicon pieces has defined “chicken egg” as “An egg from which a Chicken hatches”.

    You choose to define it differently “An egg whose genetic contents have the potential to grow into a chicken” (as I understand you)

    (which means your egg is still a chicken egg if you scramble it while his is a sort of schrodinger’s egg)

    Others might define it as “An egg layed by a chicken” or any number of other things, many of which will give you different answers, all of which are valid (but refer to slightly different objects).

    In fact, the “official” definition of egg (from is “the roundish reproductive body produced by the female of certain animals, as birds and most reptiles, consisting of an ovum and its envelope of albumen, jelly, membranes, egg case, or shell, according to species.” Which CLEARLY indicates that eggs DO NOT EXIST excepting that they are produced BY A FEMALE OF THEIR OWN SPECIES, which of course means that eggs CANNOT precede chickens.
    (which isn’t to say that the technical definition isn’t different. There are OFTEN different layman’s and technical definitions of objects)

    The lesson is that rarely do two people agree exactly on the criteria for defining an object, and these differences in perception can make different conclusions correct. This of course leads to another lesson: When trying to find a truth, be as accurate and clear as possible in defining exactly what your criteria and definitions are.

    This means that you are NOT wrong. But neither is anyone else who works from clear definitions through a rational process. Different inputs simply provide different outputs and deal with different givens, objects, etc…

    Especially when dealing with things that are less cleanly and clearly deliniated by hard science (like the gaming and social contract theory I mention earlier), these issues become of critical importance. We cannot hope to begin to make headway understanding such things without first coming to an agreed upon definition (for the purposes of the discussion).

  10. More shop talk, less philosophy and genetics.

    Unless, of course, you’re talking about:

    1) A game re-enacting life on the farm.
    2) Any one of a number of “near-future” RPGs involving corporations genetically engineering chickens for their own nefarious purposes.
    3) Mutuant Zombie Chickens.

  11. Yeah. I agree I’ve drug this WAY through the mud and off topic. I hereby resign from abusing the thread any further.

  12. This comments thread definitely wins the award for Most Off-Topic so far. 😉

    (drow) ugh. i don’t game to rethink, damnit.

    I don’t game to rethink, but I do enjoy rethinking between game sessions. That’s where this kind of head-scratching belongs for me.

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