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Dungeon Contest 2018 In Review (1/4)

Once again I am going through all the entries of the dungeon contest to give them a review. Here are the first 40, where I try to give at least something positive and negative for each one. Most of them didn’t have a link in their entry so if you have a link or links you’d like me to include with yours, let me know with a comment, G+ message, or email (admin [at] anarchydice.com).

 

Aaron A. Reed – Wage Slaves of the Principality………………………………..1

A victorian era advertisement looking sea encounter of NPC’s trapped in their own miserly heckscape. The rooms are evocative although the characters are paper-thin, but this could definitely serve as a wandering encounter to players exploring a weird ocean or lost in a chaotic sea.

Victorian capitalist stereotype sea encounter.

Aaron Thompson & Kelly Ellerbrook – The Fortress of Turby……………….2

A handful of interesting encounters fill this haphazard collection of rooms. Some descriptions are hard to parse, like the multiple rooms all sharing the “hallway” descriptor without any mention of which hallway gets which color fungus. It is hard to connect together the whole of this mini dungeon, but I may steal a puzzle or encounter.

Simple puzzle and trap fodder.

Aidan Oos-MacFadden – Love Letters From a Goldfish……………………….3

This entry left me confused as to how I would run it as anything more than a sideplot or minor character quirk of an NPC to have a pet goldfish with a romantic interest in her. There isn’t any playable material for adventurers to get involved in as written.

NPC quirk inspiration

Alan MacPherson – The Mad Conjurer’s Tomb ………………………………….4

A fetch quest of sorts solving various encounters to nab four gems to earn a simple reward, a scepter with the power to create animal mash-ups.

Adventure board magic item quest.

Alejo Silos – Old Temple of the Dragon Slayers………………………………….5

This simple abode for dragon slayers now has a few squatters. The basic rooms have a few interesting tidbits, but it lacks a strong motivator for pursuing the semi-abandoned place.

Hexcrawl random encounter filler.

Alexander Hobsbawn – Roseberry and Time …………………………………….6

A short, independent time-looped RPG session with minimal details and a lot of vague descriptions. The basic premise is interesting as a short game, but the characters range from standard fantasy material all the way to gun toting sniper with various classes that are not explained. This will need quite a bit of work to run as a GM.

Solo rpg time looping session filler.

Alex Schröder – The Pagoda of Pazuzu…………………………………………….7

A flavor-filled tower of rooms with a single encounter per floor. The descriptions and puzzles are evocative but no indication is given as to how the players are supposed to figure out the solutions to the puzzles, but for puzzles with this much flavor bursting out of them, that amount of work seems worth it.

Puzzle flavor bomb.

Alex Welk – InnCursion ………………………………………………………………..8

My own entry, which you can find here.

André Bogaz and Camila Morais – Rat at Will …………………………………..9

Flipped script on the classic rats in the tavern cellar acting as a single page RPG one-shot. Unfortunately, it describes none of the challenges present in any of the rooms, which is unfortunate because the initial description really pulled me in.

Plot for a potion mishap session.

Andrea Batacchi – Gravity Well Dungeon……………………………………….10

There isn’t much in this entry that functions more as a dungeon outline or pitch rather than something that is well fleshed out. It would require me to do basically all the work if I were to run this.

Dungeon concept fodder.

Andre Lindenfelser – Sinkhole of the Spider Cult …………………………….11

Well-statted and usable spider lair beneath the stereotypical tavern. The monsters within here are creative twists on common spider themes makes for a memorable dungeon.

Quick and creepy spider dungeon.

Andrew and Heleen Durston – The Infernal Contraption of

Doctor Ellipsis ………………………………………………………………………….12

A confusing jumble of a rubik’s cube like warmachine that lacks many of the distinguishing details of the interiors. The central conceit is a lot of fun, with a doomsday machine wreaking havoc upon a city, but it would take so much work to build a usable dungeon from this thanks to the random stocking of each room.

Rubik’s cube inspired doomsday device.

Andrew Bailey – Agarica: Poison Emporium……………………………………13

While the slanted map and text are exceedingly annoying to read, this dungeon works as a flavorful poison shop dungeon. Easy enough to insert or reskin anywhere I want with enough intrigue and options for players to pursue, whether they intend to rescue the shop, loot it for themselves, stop the cultists, or grind up some griblins.

Flavorful shop rescue and cultist extermination.

Andrey Plisko – Caged in Stone…………………………………………………….14

An eclectic mix of fights, tricks, traps, and puzzles await within this linear mini-dungeon. I dislike that there are not any stats associated with various difficulties or monsters, even just to give the relative difficulty of various tasks. The creativity of the puzzles is very engaging and fun.

Magic sidequest dungeon of trials.

Andy & Nicole Robinson – The Necromancer’s Tomb ………………………..15

This short dungeon is a simple but charming failed lich tomb with just a spot of betrayal. I would have liked it if the symbols had an actual purpose or puzzle associated rather than requiring the players to either guess or find the answer in a book. Also, if their purpose was visually useful, putting all the medallions along one edge would allow the DM to cut them out of a printed sheet to share them with the players.

Quick and dirty undead tomb.

Anna Anthropy & Beatrix Urkowitz – A Pizza the Action……………………16

Silly-punk space pizzeria shop. A complex weave of character stereotypes that make for an interesting, if passive city encounter that is just waiting for the players to cause an incident. Although, if they do nothing it doesn’t seem like anything will happen.

Space pizza shop.

Anton L.C. – Akhronoton…………………………………………………………….17

A single room stretched into a small complex of problems solving and time-warping dangers. Definitely useful as a one-shot quest or novelty encounter in a hexcrawl although there isn’t much resolution to the “mystery box” that the woman represents.

Novelty hexcrawl encounter.

Ben Chaplin – The Chasm of Coalhaven ………………………………………..18

Cutesy-silly faction dispute between goblin and kobold squatters with enough detail to run this easily as a DM without so much that it bogs down the page. It would be better if there was some flavor in how the factions interact or what they do while the players are exploring.

Silly underground faction dispute.

Ben Green – The Satyr’s Triathlon………………………………………………..19

This merry mix of encounters features lots of poetic riddles, skill challenges, and tricks. Although I am leary of the encounters being presented without any sort of stats indicating how difficult the writer intends them to be, the whole thing is well put together with notes about what sort of hints to give and clues the players have.

Poetic Riddler Forest Encounter

Benji Dike – Frankenstein Leviathan …………………………………………….20

Gross Kuo-Toa are gathering ocean body parts to build a better god in some sort of creepy build-a-bear sea temple. The dead whale submarine is pure gold, although the various encounters lack statistics, meaning it would take a bit of work to build this to the point of running it.

Build-a-better-god Ocean Dungeon

Bloodmoon – Seven ……………………………………………………………………21

I quite honestly cannot really follow what is happening here, but I was instantly turned off by both the setup requiring a timeskip and the first few entries describing what the players do rather than the environment. This isn’t a dungeon for roleplaying, but a written story and one that is hard to comprehend to boot.

Rambling NPC fodder

Bodie Hartley – Flight of the Moon Beetles……………………………………..22

Everything here is lovingly drawn and wondrous to read, with a fun little state chart showing how the beetles behave. I dislike that there are no statistics associated with anything to show how relatively powerful each encounter or entity is intended to be and the plot requires a lot of very specific things to happen.

Eclectic moon adventure

B. Pierce – The Tree of Longing …………………………………………………….23

This dungeon plays out more like a board game with spaces and random encounters. Unfortunately, none of the beasts are given any statistics or even relative power descriptions, same with the various skill checks regarding falling or maneuverability. The movement around the tree would be more interesting if there were ways that this information was relevant to the players so that they could make tradeoff decisions about where they want to head towards in teh tree or explore.

Abstract movement based tree dungeon

Brad Fiore – Addressed to M. Bova ……………………………………………….24

Fantastic as the background of an NPC’s living quarters but there isn’t much here to do adventuring-wise. There are some dangerous plants and a lot of flavorful dead-ends, but the encounters in general have little meaning, consequences, or forseeable mechanics. Just like walking a maze from the inside, there isn’t any hints or clues that make any particular choice more meaningful than another.

Eccentric NPC estate

B. Reid – In the Lair of the Glamourhammer ………………………………….25

Scatterbrained futuristic hexcrawl of encounters. Hard to follow concise summaries of each room have been pared down far below the number of words needed to make them coherent or useful. There are some room description bubbles but they lack indication of what room they apply to when bordering multiple rooms and often the subject/verb matching doesn’t make sense.

Glampunk roomcrawl

Brett Jackson – Six-Sided Die! Die! Die!!!……………………………………….26

A curse dungeon of warped space with nasty encounters in each room. I dislike that there are no hints as to how the players are supposed figure out the solution to escape and that the dungeon by design splits the party. The encounters themselves all punish exploration rather than some or most punishing it, meaning the players are likely to stop trying new things, making this dungeon a slog to escape. The encounters are evocative and cool to run.

Punishment mini-dungeon.

Brian Koplek – A Monster in the Mines………………………………………….27

Puzzle dungeon centered on a random walk between rooms. There is a poem giving the right solution of the room order to take, but the rooms seem counter-intuitive to their themes and will likely mislead players into associating them with the wrong room, at least a light tells them if they are right or not so they can brute force it. My favorite puzzle is the donation puzzle where the item they donate comes back to them enchanted or improved, rewarding players following the spirit of the puzzle. All of the trials themselves are solid puzzles and I will likely steal them.

Themed trial dungeon

Brother Juniper – Escape from New Goblin City ……………………………..28

City cast as a grander dungeon of controllable areas. The rock-paper-scissors of faction building is an intriguing concept that works well as an overall design concept and awesome idea for a city campaign, although it is lacking as a ready-to-run dungeon as the individual encounters are undesigned. There is some confusion I had around which factions control what and the strategies the other factions are likely to take, even just a few keywords about their intentions would add flavor and playability.

City conquest mini-map.

Buddy Caperton & Nathan Byrd – Marvin’s Magical Menagerie………….29

The menageries has fun encounters with clear instructions, of a sort, and the solutions allow for open-ended play. It would be nice to have some statistics of the sandworms, three-headed dog, etc. to have an idea of their relative strengths as well as some combat ability keywords for their attack strategies. Another thing I would like to have seen is a themed reward rather than just leaving it up to the DM.

Quest asking for more than you bargained for.

bygrinstow – Hangmoor Prison …………………………………………………….30

This prison guard job comes with a number of risks and minor faction troubles. It can function easily as an introduction job where the adventurers all meet and has enough hooks and implications that it can serve as a minor plot thread to tie into events later in a campaign. There is enough of a mystery to allow a DM to insert their own answers without foisting everything on to them, clearly describing the dragon’s plot or the actions of the carcass consuming monster. I am confused how the carcass consumer is hiding right in the guards own secret tunnel, but overall this dungeon provides a solid springboard to work from.

Starting prison adventure dungeon.

Carl Niblaeus – The Nether-Beasts of Ruby Pearl Island……………………31

Interacting factions make for a complex island adventure with lots of possibilities. However, many of the unique monsters and inhabitants are not given any sort of statistics or even keyworded abilities to indicate what combat powers they might have or relative strengths they have. Also, because it functions as an overview, it will take DM prep to set up the actual encounters within the islands bounds but altogether an inspiring island mini-campaign.

Island miniature campaign.

Carlos Pascual Torres – The Tomb of the Donkey God………………………32

The donkey god is a silly but deadly tomb of illustrated traps with clear descriptions of rooms with basic hints, solutions, and encounter behaviors. This makes for an easy to run dungeon with a simple but difficult goal, get the heavy statue out of the tomb. The movement between some of the rooms could be more clear in how they connect together.

Dungeon where the trouble is getting out.

Caroline Berg – The Cliffs of Sorrow ……………………………………………..33

A mostly abandoned waterfall temple has a handful of simple rooms and unnamed marauders. I dislike that the chambers are listed as having chances of containing different things, which is useless to the players who only see one result anyway while creating more work for the DM. It also throws the possible theming of the dungeon askew because the players may not see something important to the feel of the rooms. Also, I would like to see more information about the smugglers, what they are doing, who their leader is, what their strategy is, or how they are affecting the old temple or have modified it to suit their purposes.

Abandoned waterfall temple.

Carolyn Leagues – The Wreck of the Diligent Star……………………………34

This dungeon is a sunken magical wreck with intriguing keywords that note the magical effects on the flora and fauna feeding on the arcane infused ship. It would fill out the theme of the place if the wizard who owned the ship had been given a named specialty or obsession, but overall the ruins make for a somewhat profitable plunder spot with some risks.

Magical shipwreck plunderspot.

Chris Hall – In the Cradle of the Reborn God………………………………….35

Body horror dungeon based around being the womb of an upcoming demonic entity requiring the sacrifices of townsfolk. Each room is a unique and tactically interesting encounter, although I do feel that it overstuffs the dungeon such that the players will know something is always going on in each room rather than being left guessing. Also, how the ritual will be successful is not listed nor is why the cultists are failing, which would both indicate possible player actions as well as fill out the theme of the dungeon to show what the cultists are doing during the ritual.  The encounter table is perfect for giving playability to the abominations.

Body horror womb dungeon.

Christian Sahlén – The Abbey of Saint Wilk……………………………………36

This abbey is host to a demonic presence with puzzles, abandoned treasures, and a great secret that puts the main boss in real danger. I would have liked to see some sort of stat blocks for the various creatures to give me an idea of their relative intended strengths, but their abilities and tactics are summarized. While it is cool to see the evil lieutenant betrayal trope, there are no hints that this is possible to use it to their advantage before the battle is almost over.

Demon occupied abbey.

Chris Walton – Secrets of the Menhirs …………………………………………..37

Lovely isometric crypts are filled with a handful of undead encounters and a few tricks. There is a missed opportunity to give some flavor by listing, even in broad strokes, what type of treasures are within, especially the crown or sword which are just listed as magical.

Quadruplet of mini-crypts

Clark Timmins – Old Goat Shrine…………………………………………………38

This is more of a narrative description of a small area than a dungeon, as it lists some history of a corrupting idol that now has a mysterious tower near it. I would have rather heard about the tower itself, with the idol noted for flavor rather than the other way around.

Evil idol flavor text.

Connor Roberson – Morinoux’s Prison…………………………………………..39

An extensive sea-side prison that takes advantage of the tides to help contain a drought-enthusiast cultist. The theming of the monsters and non-combatants within the dungeon are on point, although some statistics would be helpful. There are some opportunities for unique, sea and drought themed treasures but there isn’t much advantage taken from that possibility. The puzzles and encounters within are engaging and detailed enough that I want to run this dungeon.

Tide based prison of a drought enthusiast.

Cooper Graetz – The Eye of the Storm Giant…………………………………..40

Zombie storm giant converted into a walking wizard tower has a trio of specialized wizards housed within. The three wizards could really use some suggested spells or magic abilities or gross-ness associated with living inside a giant zombie but this serves as a useable wandering encounter in a hexcrawl.

Wandering converted giant hexcrawl encounter

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