Before I relaunched my 2002 game Northport on RPOL.net, I was starved for gaming, and just discovering the blossoming fruit of the OSR. A few years before, I had given my AD&D stash to a friend, as I could no longer afford to keep my storage unit and had no space in the apartment for games I hacn’t been able to play for over fifteen years. I had recently discovered Peter Dell’Orto’s blog, and had started buying GURPS supplements for the Dungeon Fantasy Line, and was thinking about reviving the game I had once run using GURPS 3E and some variant rules from a long since vanished website.
I needed a fix, and a dungeon generator, and found both within Kabuki Kaiser’s Ruins of the Undercity.
This also led to my acquisition of Goblinoid Games’ excellent retroclone, Labyrinth Lord, (which while free, is worth purchasing for the art content). From around this time, I have been swimming in OSR adventures, assorted Retro-clones and alternative bestiaries, and have even bought PDF’s of TSR books long since gone from my grubby little hands.
Ruins of the Undercity, and it’s companion work, Mad Monks of Kwantoom, (both currently available at onebookshelf for only $5 each) stimulated a lot of nostalgia and a drive to acquire in me. These are not simple random dungeon generators, although that is their core mechanic. They are one of the few solo products I have seen in years, and their tone is perfect. The bestiaries they contain are revisionist retrofitting of late 1E critters into the B/X mold of Labyrinth Lord, but the careful editing of selection from the Fiend Folio (in the case of Ruins) is very tone specific, and drives a lot of the flavor of the setting. The suggestions on how to run the descriptions of the random dungeonscape are extremely useful, and the random events that happen during the player downtime is outrageously good, and some of the entries have been driving plots in my game.
Mad Monks, on the other hand, in addition to bringing Wuxia wow to B/X style games, has a bestiary designed after some really fabulous matchbook covers, and some really high powered mythological set pieces that feel more like unlocked secrets than simple random encounters. The tables for city encounters and events have a grand feel to them, that shifts perspective in play from murder hoboism to giving a sense of belonging within the world setting and instills a desire to obtain status rather than just wealth; to even get to the island where the Pagodas are requires membership in a society.
Kabuki Kaiser has produced some truly entertaining examples of modern old school solo play with these supplements, that are worth mining for details if you ever plan on running a city, and has a thoughtful method for random generation of availability of goods when your PC’s are shopping, in addition to a well thought descriptive system for dungeon design.