Wednesday, October 17, 2007

good book

Original D&D Discussion member stonegiant recommended this book a few weeks back and I found it at my local library. There are lots of real-life inspirations for dungeons: the catacombs of Paris, the interior of the Great Pyramid, the steam tunnels at your local University, etc. But Tom Mangold and John Penycate's The Tunnels of Cu Chi is the first time I've come across detailed accounts of combat in an underground environment. The man-to-man fighting between the Viet Cong and the Tunnel Rats of the U.S. Army will only be directly adaptable to D&D if you riddle a dungeon with corridors so small that crawling on hands and knees in single file is the only option. If your DM uses Tucker's Kobolds, then maybe you could root them out using the methods described in this book. The Army could only score small local successes against the tunnels until the later phases of the war, when they just bombed the hell out of the Cu Chi area with B-52s.

This is just a small sample drawing meant to exemplify many features of the VC tunnel system. The South Vietnamese guerrillas had miles of miles of tunnels, most of which linked up so that you could travel from the Cambodian border to Saigon via tunnel crawling. And almost all of it was dug by hand with tools no different than those medieval sappers would use to undermine castle walls. Fighting in the tunnels, knives and bamboos spears were almost as important as pistols and AK's. The troubles of light sources and the danger of traps were constant issues. Running out of oxygen was another major problem.

One great thing about this book is that the authors were able to interview people from both sides of the conflict, and I think they did their level best to be politically neutral, given the polarizing nature of the conflict. You get to see the tunnel warfare from both the eyes of the intrepid G.I. tunnel invaders and the Vietnamese fighters who lived long stretches of their lives in the tunnels.