Did I invent the Depth Crawl (first)?

EDIT: I got some push back on Reddit about this post. Basically, it was asserted that I was all bitter about Emmy’s success. That is not the case (you can see below that I wish her well). What this post is, is a enquiry of fact. That is, did I put the idea of a “depth/zone crawl” out there before Emmy. Once you have the answer to that question, you can choose what you do with that answer. If the answer upsets you (and I really cannot see/understand why it would), then, I think you should ask yourself why that is.

I’d add that I’ve had some small measure of success in devising RPG mechanics in the past, in particular with my Hex Flower Engine, and have no desire to appropriate anyone’s ideas as my own (it’s happened enough to me).

– – – POST – – –

I was recently reading The Alexandrian blog and saw a topic close to my heart about “Depth Crawls” LINK.

The blog opens with:

“The concept of the depthcrawl was created by Emmy “Cavegirl” Allen for The Gardens of Ynn and The Stygian Library.” (emphasis added)

If you are reading this post then you already know that Emmy is the author of the well-known Depth Crawl ‘The Gardens Of Ynn’ (GoY), how it works, and that GOY has been very successful, and more power to Emmy for her success.  

But … The Alexandrian blog post got me wondering: did Emmy create the concept of a “Depth Crawl” (I prefer the term “Zone Crawl”) with GOY, and in particular, did GOY pre-date my procedural module Carapace (which also contains a Depth/Zone Crawl).

The short answer is: it seems I had put this idea of a Depth/Zone Crawl out there before Emmy did.

Here’s a brief timeline of events as I understand them:

– – – Supporting information – – –

:: G+ message notification dated 9 December 2017 with a comment from a G+’er on my procedural Zone/Depth Crawl adventure (I also have some direct messages to some other G+’ers before February 2018):

I’ve redacted the identifying information of the G+’er in the message above. Below is a link to the file I was sharing at this time (as it was a work in progress, this is the file update as of 28 December 2017):

:: Link to a Dropbox folder containing an early version of ‘Carapace’, with a file upload date of 28 December 2017

Here’s the PDF version if you want to read this early draft of Carapace, a draft that had not even included a Hex Flower option yet.

TLDR: Well here’s a extract from this 2017 document ([…] denotes section cut for brevity):

:: Link to Emmy’s blog post dated 20 February 2018 (clipping below):

– – – End of Supporting Information – – –

So, for what it is worth, I think (unless Emmy also posted the idea on G+ (or elsewhere) before me, and I have missed it), I created the idea of a Zone/Depth Crawl first. Certainly, Emmy was first to market with a finalized product. My best guess is that a ‘procedural-adventure Zeitgeist’ was circulating on G+ in late 2017, and Me and Emmy honed in on the idea of a Zone/Depth Crawl about the same time.

My inspiration for my Depth Crawl was Jason Cordova‘s “Labyrinth Move” written for Dungeon World; which is concerned with abstraction of the navigation of maze like spaces. I wanted to take Jason’s idea further and came up with the idea of a Zone/Depth Crawl.

I’m happy to be shown to be wrong on any of this. Perhaps my Google-Foo is not strong. Perhaps I’m operating under some misunderstandings. Maybe you think Carapace (or “Into the Hive” as it was titled then) is not a Depth Crawl.

Also, if you know of an earlier root or example of this Zone/Depth Crawl idea, please get in touch, I’d like to know more.

This post is not casting shade on anyone. In particular I’d like to congratulate Emmy on her creativity and success.

Carapace … what’s next?
I am working on a updated version of Carapace with Art from Marcin s (Carapace is about exploring a giant insect colony), … but the current PDF version can be found
>> HERE << and it is PWYW.

Below is a fun ‘concept sketch’ of the Giant Insect Colony from Carapace, from an email of 17 November 2017, showing the idea of Zones 1 to 4 (also, I think back then, the idea was to have a Giant Ant, Giant Wasp and Giant Spider area, each with Zones 1 to 4):

Carapace reviewed/referenced
Carapace was reviewed on the Fear of a Black Dragon podcast, and gets a mention in the ‘External & Complementary Resources’ section (page 160) of Andrew Kolb’s great work Neverland.

Clipping from a concept sketch for the new art by Marcin s:

Me on DriveThru; some of my things:
:: High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea,
:: Wilderness Hex Crawl – In the Heart of the Unknown,
:: Dungeon/network generator – In the Heart of the Delve & Dangerous

6 thoughts on “Did I invent the Depth Crawl (first)?

  1. Patrick

    “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

    ― Mark Twain


    1. Goblin's Henchman Post author

      100%. From the stone axe to the intercontinental ballistic missile – it is just a series of iterative jumps forward. Invention is often spotting these non-obvious jumps forward. Often several pieces of the puzzle need to come together before the next step can happen. No microchip without purified silicon etc (probably a better example out there).

      In the end, we are standing on the shoulders of giants with most of these things. My idea came from Jason Cordova’s “Labyrinth Move”. Where Jason got his idea from, I don’t know.


      1. Patrick

        In my opinion, it’s more appropriate to chalk it up to the convergent evolution that inevitably happens when people of similar material and ideological circumstances address the same subjects than it is to give all credit to a Great Thinker. At the end of the day, execution matters more than novelty value.

        BTW, I love your Hex Flowers and bought some products from you a while back on dtrpg so please don’t take this as a personal attack or me saying you don’t have any ideas.


      2. Goblin's Henchman Post author

        Thanks. Very happy to chat about this.

        I’m very happy with the idea of convergent evolution, it’s a very plausible explanation and is covered with my ‘procedural-adventure Zeitgeist’ comment.

        But, I’ve seen quite a few post like The Alexandrian blog, and in a post by Ben Milton of the Questing Beast fame, saying X created Y. I wanted to take a closer look at this assertion, especially as I knew I was active in this area about the same time. Hence this post.


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