Into the Unknown (Tome 196)


In this episode we are joined by designers Logan Bonner and Matt James who helped write Into the Unknown: A Dungeon Survival Handbook as well as Michael the “OnlineDM”, Joe Lastowski, our editor Sam Dillon who helped us review the book.

Before we get into it, though, have I mentioned the Tome Show's live podcasts at GenCon this year? Check them out!

Tome Advice (guest to be announced) SEM1233024

Gamer to Gamer (with Chris Perkins) SEM1233028

Behind the DM Screen SEM1233180



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Back to the Dungeon Design and Development article (WotC)

Online DM: Website | Twitter

Joe: Game Store | Twitter

Sam: Website

Sarah Darkmagic (Tracy's blog)


  • Brian

    Hey guys thanks for doing the review. However, I am sorry to say that I am now no longer subscribed to your pod cast.

    Frankly the random reference that makes to how women are represented in the game has become off putting.

    Everyone gets their view, but this is the last time I am listening to your pod cast.

    Jun 3, 2012 at 1:08 am
  • TheTome

    All Tome Show reviews are encouraged to raise any point for discussion that impacts their experience with the product being reviewedp so that it can be discussed without dominating the conversation. We remain dedicated to trying to provide a wide variety of perspectives withi the idea that it is, then, more likely that you will hear opinions that more accurately represent your thoughts in the review. It is the advantage of a multi-person review format that other mediums struggle to implement.

    This is, after all, ONE of the reasons that Tracy was brought onto the show. She has many perspectives and experiences that I don’t have. She’s a newer gamer, she’s a writer/designer, she’s an east coaster, she’s involved in teaching new people to play at cons…and yes, she’s a woman. All of these are perspectives that I don’t have that could better reflect the opinions of some audience members.

    And, like her, you are also welcome to your opinions. If a “random reference” in an episode is enough to negate all the enjoyment you get out of the rest of what the Tome Show produces then such is the way of things. I encourage you to check out the variety of feeds, perhaps you might want to subscribe to the non-review feeds.

    Jun 3, 2012 at 6:16 am
  • Rory

    I have listened to a few of your podcasts now, and I have to agree with Brian. Tracy’s points can become tiresome and usually lack a solid explanation. Criticisms can be ok if they are followed with support and/or an alternative to how the point in question could be improved. I haven’t heard any of these things yet, and frankly I don’t think I’ll wait around to see if things change. There are plenty of podcasts out there that offer unique angles that actually have some substance behind them.

    Jun 4, 2012 at 10:42 pm
  • Jeff Greiner

    I appreciate your perspective, Rory, although I’m not sure that I agree. Tracy (and others, I’ll point out that it wasn’t Tracy who really brought up the topic in this episode) has been pretty explicit on the show and many places on the internet about the issue. I felt it was a point brought up but handled in a very reasonable way without allowing it to dominate the conversation.

    That said, if the show isn’t right for you, I understand and I encourage you to keep exploring your options, there are many great podcasts out there that offer different perspectives and I’m a big fan of growing the community of RPG podcasters even if you don’t want to listen to this one.

    Jun 6, 2012 at 8:03 pm
  • Eric Paquette

    I found value in the review. Even though I had already bought it due to being a completionist and for running D&D Encounters, the review helped me determine the sections that I should focus my reading.

    I feel the comments by Brain and Roy makes mountains of an anthill. The art discussion takes a small portion of the episode. All the reviewers share their opinion of it which they are entitled to. I appreciate hearing the multitude difference experiences and opinions on the products. I’m sad to read people who wish that we share less differing opinions.

    I see and appreciate the irony of my feelings that we should allow discussions of opinions except those who wish to shut down opinions of others.

    Jun 6, 2012 at 10:25 pm
  • Chad

    I have to disagree with the guys above. Images and art greatly affect the perception of the printed page just as much (if not more) than the layout or written content. The images we see are supposed to give us an almost instantaneous sense of what lies within the words that take a few moments to read. If that images is off-putting or even offensive in some way it will color your reading and your entire sense of the book.

    Now, everyone has a completely different opinion about where what line (ethnicity, gender, violence, ect…) should be and we can debate that point endlessly, but I think it is a fair point to be raised in the review of a product like this.

    I recently answered a poll from Wizards of the Coast about what level of violence and blood the D&D Next art should be aiming for. If WotC is interested enough to wonder if they are doing it right (or if they can do it better), how can it not be a valid point when reviewing one of their products?


    Jun 6, 2012 at 10:32 pm
  • Lyal

    I saw the call for comments on Twitter, otherwise I would not have weighed in as I’ve only listened to episodes 195 and 196. Tracy retweeted one of our episodes (Idle Red Hands #69), so I thought I’d return the favour and listen to the podcast she’s a part of.

    First, I find Jeff’s comments here strike a better balance of defending a co-host (understandable) and thanking the listeners for their feedback than The Tome’s. Maybe you’re the same person.

    I can see where Rory and Brian are coming from about the comment, although I probably wouldn’t have singled out the one host. Then again, their comments read like they’ve listened to more episodes than I have.

    As for the comment, if I felt that some pictures objectified women (I can’t recall the exact wording), I would have described one of them. Talking about pictures on a podcast can be a losing battle, but at least the listener would have had some frame of reference. (I could follow the later, unrelated picture descriptions.) This would’ve helped me, as a first-time listener, better determine if Tracy’s critique was valid. As it stands now, I have no idea.

    I don’t want to single out one host, though, because I think the silence that followed the comment made me think that the other hosts didn’t know what to do with it. The other hosts could have followed up on the Underdark reference at the end or they could have asked for an example. Even better, they could have agreed (again, with an example) or disagreed. Disagreement could have led to some interesting clash. Agreement could have helped to support Tracy’s comment. I don’t care if she’s been “explicit” about the issue elsewhere; it needs to be clear on this episode.

    As a final check, I think in the editing process, you need to listen for things that go nowhere and cut them out. A lot of stuff we say on our cast ends up in the bin because it didn’t add to the discussion. If we find something boring, we can only imagine how uninteresting our listeners will find it.

    Anyway, I hope you don’t mind me chiming in and take my comments in the spirit that they’re intended.

    Eric, this is a podcast about gaming. Everything is a molehill. :)

    Jun 7, 2012 at 12:11 am
  • TracyHurley

    Lyal, I disagree about taking it out. It was a review and this was part of my review. While I didn’t want to go into it more in the show because of comments like those above, I needed to be able to say it. I won’t be silenced just because some people want to defend the artwork as it is. That’s part of the reason why it never changes. Those who disagree are edited out of the conversation. And we did discuss it again later in the episode when Sam, not me, brings it up again.

    In addition, during reviews, lots of people say things in critique without going through the full explanation. To say I have to be just because of the topic is silly.

    Jun 7, 2012 at 8:34 am
  • Lyal

    There’s a difference between editing and “silencing”, especially when the topic is revisited. If you guys like to keep things as uncut as possible, that’s cool.

    I never said one topic more than others needed a full explanation. I used it as an example. Maybe your “silly” remark was directed at someone else.

    Jun 7, 2012 at 10:34 am
  • Kim

    I think bringing up sexist themes prevalent in gaming is a noble cause, and I applaud Tracy for her efforts. But if you are not going to edit or silence opinions, then why hold back? Please go at the sexist regime at full force, and explain in detail why things are so bad, and how we should change them! That would be much more powerful and meaningful than just casually bringing something up, saying it’s bad, then moving on to the next topic. Go big or stay home!

    Jun 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm
  • Tracy Hurley


    Thanks for the comment!

    Sometimes we talk about it in depth, sometimes we don’t. We talked about the issue again near the end of the episode, pointing out images in the book and describing them.

    On the book club episodes, we’ve asked authors why they decided to portray female (and male) characters the way they did, both ones we liked and ones we didn’t.

    I am going big, and I am not going home.

    Jun 7, 2012 at 9:18 pm
  • TheTome

    Yeah, Tracy’s not subtle on the issue…she just doesn’t usually use the podcast as her vehicle to push the issue. She doesn’t hide from it here, but I’d say she’s fighting that fight elsewhere.

    @Lyal: Sorry for the confusion about Jeff and TheTome…they’re both me. If I’m logged into the back end of the site it automatically lists me as “TheTome” rather than whatever I typed in on the comment. I’m not trying to make it look like a larger conversation than it is, or anything.

    In any case, Lyal, thanks for the well reasoned discussion. I’m always happy to hear constructive people discussing things in a reasonable way even if I don’t always agree. I’ve discussed at length the philosophy of editing (what to and not to cut). I’m happy with our current method. I’d rather have more information than just cut everything that I don’t think is the very best because in a review you never know what information is useful to who in the audience. What I think may not be a big deal could be a major factor for someone else. If it’s not there, no one can benefit from it, if it is there maybe someone can.

    On a related note, Lyal, as a podcaster I wanted to let you know of an email group that’s been around for many years via yahoo groups. If you’d like to get an invite into it shoot me and email and I’ll hook you up (thetomeshow AT

    Jun 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm
  • Lyal

    Thanks, Jeff. That mailing list sounds good.

    As for the other 76 minutes, the book sounds really useful. I have to disagree with one of the reviewers; books like this have to repeat material from other editions. Good stuff is good stuff.

    Jun 8, 2012 at 9:29 am
  • David Schwarm

    Jeff, Great Podcast. Matt James always makes things interesting–I love that you are still having him on. Sam is still a stud & it is great to hear from him–I would love to have him participate during the book club–he has a precision that I think would be helpful at times.

    The idea that Tracy’s occasional focus on the obvious sexism in our hobby is making listeners so uncomfortable that they are going to stop listening is pretty much the EXACT point the Tracy is trying to make.

    The conversation that Tracy is trying to have is complicated, important, and interesting–she brings a ton to this cast & I am really glad she is here.

    Jun 12, 2012 at 11:04 pm
  • Rodeo Drive

    I must’ve missed the posts that said Tracy’s focus was making people so uncomfortable that they stopped listening.

    I think the general gist was that her ideas are somewhat half-baked, lacking support and under-developed.

    How can you have a complicated, important, and interesting conversation (things I agree with, by the way) by only mentioning something in passing and failing to elaborate?

    Jun 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm
  • TracyHurley

    And yet we did talk about it later in the episode and elaborated further….

    We also give lots of opinions, about lots of things, in passing and don’t always elaborate.

    Jun 14, 2012 at 1:44 pm
  • david schwarm

    Rodeo Drive > I must’ve missed the posts that said Tracy’s focus was Rodeo Drive > making people so uncomfortable that they stopped Rodeo Drive > listening.

    I was going off of this: Brian > Frankly the random reference that makes to how women are Brian > represented in the game has become off putting.

    I apologize if my quick summary somehow reduced the complexity of Brian’s general gist–I read him as saying that he is put off by Tracey’s comments.

    Rodeo Drive > her ideas are somewhat half-baked, lacking support Rodeo Drive > and under-developed. I assume that you are joking here OR have no idea who you are talking about…As far as I can tell Tracey spends a massive amount of time on this topic [fully baked], is making claims generally supported in discussions of main stream sexism [supported], and has started a company to change this [fully developed].

    More importantly, She regularly blogs about this stuff, posts on twitter and g+, supports / facilitates some fairly complicated discussions.

    If a passing comment on a podcast comes off as flippant or something it may be helpful to Consider the Source.

    Rodeo Drive > How can you have a complicated, important, Rodeo Drive > and interesting conversation (things I agree Rodeo Drive > with, by the way) by only mentioning Rodeo Drive > something in passing and failing to elaborate?

    Excellent point. Maybe this comes down to how much elaboration is required–pointing at a picture of a female gnome with enormous breasts and laughing is enough elaboration for me, but your mileage may vary…

    Jun 14, 2012 at 9:06 pm
  • Rodeo Drive

    And so you’re assuming that the podcast listeners are following Tracy’s blogs, tweets, g+ posts, and know about her company? None of this stuff is even mentioned in the “About the Hosts” tab on the website. Furthermore, just because she does those things doesn’t automatically put all of her podcast comments into context for the listeners. I’m sure that there is a cohesive narrative in the hosts’ minds, but for listeners like Brian, it may come off as “random” (in his words).

    Jun 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm
  • Jeff Greiner

    Rodeo Drive: I certainly wouldn’t assume that all listeners are aware of all of what any of us are doing outside of the podcast itself. I don’t know that you NEED to know all that to appreciate the comments in the review, although it may add some depth to the conversation happening here.

    Her blog should be linked in the About the Hosts page, the other things probably aren’t (although I suppose they could be).

    Her Prismatic Art company has been mentioned a few times in the show, but in an effort NOT to overwhelm people with the hosts promoting their own things/agendas we probably mentioned it two or three time and then stopped doing so. Which is honestly, why it surprises me on some level when people comment about being put off by certain messages or finding them tiresome when I think we do a pretty good job of not making the show a place where we further our own agendas. I would challenge people to find half a dozen Tome Show episodes (out of over 200) where the issue of the depiction of women in game art came up. Honestly, I can only think of 2 or 3 times in over 5 years.

    Jun 18, 2012 at 2:13 pm
  • HyveMynd

    I can completely understand the reluctance to spend hours going through an episode with a fine-toothed comb for the odd ‘comment to nowhere’. I’m one of Lyal’s co-hosts, and I’m also frequently the guy who edits our casts. It can be an absolute pain, as I sometimes spend upwards of 6 to 8 hours editing a singe hour-long episode. More than once I’ve wished that we did “live” recordings, but sadly we’re not up to that point yet.

    I can’t help but wonder why some people reacted so negatively to that one comment though.

    Jun 21, 2012 at 3:38 am